Back in the saddle – young cyclist fights off chronic fatigue

TOP young cyclist Dylan McKenna has overcome some tough obstacles.

Before the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic last year glandular fever knocked him flat.

He recovered and took his place in the field, not expecting much.

“I didn’t even know if I’d finish,” McKenna admitted.

Not only did he finish he was 12th of the 38 starters in the first men’s support race, his maiden senior test.

He did well again in the second race, 14th of 54 starters.

In the third race he gained attention with a top 10 finish, seventh of 45 riders.

“I’ve never seen this young man before but I like what I’m seeing,” said race commentator Matthew Keenan, who calls the Tour de France for SBS.

In the fourth and final race McKenna was in the lead group in the final straight. A crash in front of him took him down, but he recovered to finish 19th of 49 starters.

“This young man has been so impressive and courageous this week he deserves a round of applause,” Keenan said.

“It was the sweetest win.”

McKenna was looking forward to a good year. But his toughest test was to come.

Around May he started to feel tired, his body ached and within weeks he couldn’t get out of bed at the family’s Castlemaine home.

“It was shocking,” he said.

“I felt too exhausted to move. It was a struggle to get to the toilet.”

Mum Marg brought his meals to his bed.

“It was very distressing to see him like that,” she said.

Doctors couldn’t find anything wrong, but eventually diagnosed him with chronic fatigue.

Over the next few months the family tried many things, including a chronic fatigue physiotherapist in Melbourne.

“Nothing worked,” Marg said.

McKenna began to lose hope.

“I wanted to sell my bike, but mum wouldn’t let me,” he said.

“I used to be Dylan the cyclist. Now I was Dylan the sick kid.”

A friend told the family about a course called The Lightning Process. The friend’s daughter had battled anxiety and depression for years, but, after doing the three-day course, no longer had any symptoms.

“There is a big chunk of science supporting the underlying principle of the plasticity of the brain.”

McKenna did the course in Melbourne, finishing on July 22. The next day he took his bike to the Castlemaine Cycling Club track and lined up in a 33 km race.

Starting off scratch, the backmark, he reeled in the field, sprinted clear and won.

“It was the sweetest win,” he said.

Five months on he hasn’t looked back.

He completed Year 12 at Bendigo Senior Secondary College, trains each day and works at the local bike shop.

McKenna was back at the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic, held January 1-3, claiming 19th of 60 in the first men’s support race and 11th in the third and final race.

The Lightning Process

Teaches participants that a brain’s response to stress, threat or illness can become ingrained long after the response is needed.

During the course, participants do a series of breathing, physical and mental exercises, calming the body and creating new neural pathways in the brain, breaking the cycle.

Ian Cleary, who runs the course, said McKenna did “brilliantly”.

“He threw himself into the training,” he said.

University of South Australia clinical neuroscience professor Lorimer Moseley said the course may not be for everyone but there was a “big chunk of science” supporting the underlying principle of the “plasticity” of the brain.

First published Herald Sun 21 January 2017. Author Mike Smith.

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