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David Smith: I danced the night away then came hammer blow – my friend is dying

AS the Bee Gees’ hit Saturday Night Fever blares out, I find myself drawn to the dance floor. Somehow, I have ended up at Kingston’s oldest club night, something known as Rae Town old hits. I only went out for dinner.

After a final 1000m swim in the sea, I knew it was getting close to my final session in Jamaica. So why not throw in a bit of dancing with my rehabilitation as I say goodbye to the place?

That is how I found myself at the oldies night in Kingston, a place where the age range spanned 60 to 90 but still crackled with as much energy as any dance floor I have ever seen.


I wouldn’t say I move like John Travolta but my dancing ability has somewhat improved after my surgeries, even as my movement got worse.

It might sound crazy but dancing is great rehab physically and mentally, and this dance floor was the perfect example of people letting go of their ego, moving their bodies to the music and having fun. It is a reminder that we have nothing more than right now, so embrace it and have fun.

I remember a time when I would have been too ‘cool’ to dance, too worried what others might think But as this lady in her 80s moved to the music I thought, I love this. I’m pretty sure I was the only Scottish dude on the dance floor.

I woke up the next morning and decided to take a couple of days rest away from training and just relax before my flight back to London.

Even though surgery in 2016 didn’t go to plan and has left me with paralysis, being here reminds me that I need to focus on what I CAN do rather than thinking of the things I can’t.

If I used to be able to do one hundred things maybe I can only do say 90. So let’s focus on those 90 and let go of the other stuff.

In life I have always tried to listen to my gut instinct, my intuition. It’s mostly right, and now I just had this burning feeling in my gut telling me I shouldn’t be getting on my flight home just yet. Not a bad feeling – just something telling me to stay another week.

So as I set off to the airport all set on going back to London, I paused then picked up my phone and changed my flight. Another week in the healing environs of Jamaica is what I need, because apart from a couple of casual arrangements here and there, I had nothing else to go home for.

A quick call to British Airways, and a few apologies later, the change is done. It is a quick turn of the car and right to my favourite vegetarian food joint in Kingston, a place called Newleaf.

I go in there every day when I’m in Kingston. I’m at the point now where I almost don’t have to tell the guys what I want: veggie burger, no mustard and a smoothie. By far the best thing I have ever tasted.

As soon as I sit down, I see a guy walk in with a slight limp. It turns out he had double foot drop and before I knew it we are both comparing foot drop stories and sharing injury stories about a condition where you don’t have the strength to lift your feet up. It might sound not that bad, but trust me it’s a real pain and the cause of most of my falls.

It’s always inspiring to meet other people who face obstacles head on and don’t let life-changing conditions stop them achieving their goals. This guy told me of how he had been hit by a truck in his spine years ago, then one day his feet started to drop. He never let that stop him.

I left feeling inspired and ready for another week’s training here in the 36 degree heat. And that imperative to live every day like it’s your last was only confirmed when some bad news came through about my cycling team-mate, Liz Saul.

Just turned 30, Liz and I have competed together for years now. She lost her leg to a very rare bone cancer at 14, and after 10 years of clear scans, she recently had that dreaded conversation when they tell you the last thing you want to hear.

I remember how we were sat in Gatwick airport last year, my first World Cup race back and she was telling me how she had this chest infection or cold that just wouldn’t go away. We both laughed over a juice and chatted with not a worry in the world.

Little did any of us on the team know that this was no cold: Liz’s cancer had returned and she was told it is incurable. Scans showed tumours on her vertebrae, some on her ribs and lungs. We are like a family on the cycling team and it was heart-breaking for all of us to hear this. Liz shared a very powerful press article this week and reading it confirmed my gut instinct to stay and do everything I want to do now.

In Liz’s words “I try and tell people – why wait until you get really bad news, to do all the things you want to do. Do them now”.

She only asked once at the start how long she has to live. The doctors don’t know, none of us know how long we have. But if her story shows us anything, it is to live life to the fullest every day.

Thank you Liz, for reminding me of this. It is with a sense of new gratitude for the life and opportunities I still have that it’s time to turn off my phone and light so I can get up at 6am ready to smash another day on this beautiful island.

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