By Gary Ahuja
While cycling 160 kilometres in less than five hours is an above-average time, Roy McBeth has his mind set on bettering his 2014 mark.
Competing in the Prospera Valley GranFondo for the first time in 2014, McBeth finished the grueling ride in 4:53:38, which was good for 43rd in the men’s 35 to 44-year-old age group. It was also 43 minutes better than the average time (5:36.58) of all 502 participants for that distance.
“I was not feeling very good, but I had made it,” McBeth said. “I don’t think I was slow by any means, but I would like to improve on that.”
What makes his 2014 time even more impressive was the fact McBeth did so with a kidney functioning in the 15 to 17 per cent range, by his estimation.
McBeth, who is now 45, has cycled for the past 20 or so years, competing in mountain biking, road racing, cyclocross, triathlons and Xterra, which is off-road triathlon events.
But he always did so while struggling with a hereditary genetic condition called polycystic kidney disease (KPD). It is a disorder that causes multiple cysts to form in the kidneys. McBeth’s grandmother died of the condition in her late 30s while his dad passed away in 2010 at the age of 63.
McBeth was diagnosed as a teenager.
“There is not a lot you can do for the disease,” he explained. “The best options are to live a healthy lifestyle, watch your diet and don’t drink excess alcohol, that sort of stuff.
“I didn’t start to notice any decline in my health and my physical performance and competing until my mid 30s; that’s when the kidney decline really started to accelerate (and) by the time I was in my 40s, things were really started to become problematic.”
Things really began to go downhill about two years ago. McBeth began to suffer high blood pressure, fatigue and lethargy. Cysts also began to grow on his kidneys. It became harder to exercise because the cysts would push on his diaphragm, making it hard to take deep breaths. He suffered nausea, headaches and just generally not feeling well.
“Things sort of snowballed and once things go bad, they pick up and get bad quite fast.”
He was facing either dialysis – a process that removes waste and excess water from the blood and must be performed four or five hours every second day – or a transplant.
None of his family members could donate a kidney due to their history of PKD and neither his wife Anne nor her family members were suitable matches.
McBeth, a detective with the Abbotsford Police Department’s domestic crimes unit, was encouraged by one of his sergeants to draft a letter and forward it throughout the department. A number of people were tested to see if they were a match, and one, Insp. Kevin Wright – McBeth’s boss – was found to be a suitable donor.
On Jan. 14, the pair went in for surgery at St. Paul’s Hospital. McBeth woke up the next morning feeling better already.
“You could see it in his face right after the surgery,” Wright said.
“I could tell he looked healthier.”
Within five days McBeth was home. Within a couple of weeks he was able to walk a few kilometres. After six weeks, he was back on his bike.
His recovery time was helped by the fact McBeth had a healthy lifestyle, was younger and the fact his donor was alive and also healthy.
The 2015 Prospera Valley GranFondo is set for July 19 in Fort Langley, and takes riders through the scenic Fraser Valley.
Another thing McBeth is doing is trying to spread awareness about organ transplants and donations.
“It has been such a remarkable journey for me and you really see the impact it has on people and their lives,” he explained.
You meet all these people who have gone through similar circumstances and what their journey has been. And because things have gone so well for me, I really hope to spread the word about organ donation and show people what is possible.”
McBeth has designed a kit which features the Donate Life and B.C. Transplant logos. It also features the date of his transplant on one sleeve while the other has a donor ribbon with Wright’s initials.
He doesn’t typically bring up his story unless someone asks him after seeing his kit.
“When I am out riding with people and we are doing 100 km training rides, I don’t bring it up until someone will ask me what the kit is about,” he said.
“It is a real conversation starter.”
“Once people ask I am more than happy to let people know.”