I’m not big on New Year’s Day. Except for when the odometer clicked over to 2000 and I was waiting for the Y2K bug to destroy us (sound familiar?), I would just say, “Happy New Day!” January 1 isn’t much different from December 31.
In the old days, the biggest thing about a new year for me was remembering to write the correct year on checks. After decades of covering powersports, I’m always writing the next year long before the calendar changes. We’ve already covered a 2023 model.
So, while I can’t quite bring myself to say “Happy New Year” because I’m not quite sure what we’ll be getting, I sure hope it will be better than 2021.
2021 started off okay for me. I was rehabbing from my shattered right fibula and tibia. I had finally ventured out into the dirt on the Honda CRF450RL, which I love riding. That included a bit of snow riding—always a treat where I live. That particular ride came two days after I got a biopsy for something hard in my face’s right cheek.
The bad news for me was that I was diagnosed with desmoplastic melanoma—always interesting to get a disease you’ve never heard of. I was brought into the City of Hope for the unusually large tumor to be removed from my face, and the world-class Chilean surgeon skillfully did just that, though it left a two-inch hole in my cheek.
While my supermodel days are in the past, this was still tragic—I couldn’t wear a helmet until I got some facial reconstruction done. Even after that, it was going to take a couple of months. Okay, there are worse things, as I found out.
I went into the surgeon expecting to hear the good news that the tumor was excised, and that was that. Unfortunately, I got the bad news that I was likely stage 4, and maybe I should start thinking about what kind of music I wanted to be played at my funeral—maybe “Son Of A Gun” by The Vaselines. Well, at least they could sew up my face and I could go riding before the curtain came down.
Cutting to the chase, I ended up at UCLA Medical Center with yet another world-famous doctor—this time an oncologist from Poland—and he figured out that an experimental immunotherapy regimen would do the trick and I’d be fine. Well, after 11 of 17 treatments, he was mostly right.
I’ve been declared cancer-free—whew! The downside is that I’m dealing with some side effects of immunotherapy. I can’t complain too much, though. While they haven’t been pleasant, they’re nowhere near as bad as the fallout from chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I’m moving in the right direction on the recovery from side effects, so I’m pretty sure that will be in the past in 2022.
Concurrent with that has been the COVID-19 panic. That had interfered with the rehab process for my right leg, which is still ongoing. A bit of poking around found me a gym with values that align with mine—being fit and healthy is of the utmost importance. While my right leg isn’t 100 percent, I’m working hard on it. It’s healed enough that I was able to test the new 2021 Yamaha WR450F, and there’s a GasGas EX 350F cross-country racer in the garage awaiting my attention.
As I write this, 2021 is going out with a fizzle. A planned ride in Arizona got canceled just before Christmas because my dad was exposed to COVID-19, though he ended up testing negative. Then, it did the oddest thing in Southern California; it rained almost every day for two weeks—a fitting end to the worst year of my life.
2022, take me, I’m yours.