JONNA JOHNSEN | BIKE TO LIFE
Mondraker ambassador Jonna Johnsen is a Danish rider who overcame cancer through her hard work, her love of life and her passion for cycling.
Jonna’s story is not a conventional one. This Danish rider, born in 1992, started her cycling career in BMX and became both Danish and Scandinavian BMX Champion. After BMX, she tried her hand at Enduro and DH, where her participations in EWS and UCI DH World Cups in recent years have been her way of life ever since. At a competition she met Manuel, a Mexican rider who invited her to go on holiday to his country. There she fell in love with the country, and with him. Since 2019 she has been living in Mexico surrounded by mountain bikes. It was also there that she was diagnosed with cancer, which she overcame thanks to her will to live, Manuel’s support and her passion for cycling. An emotionally moving story, but at the same time one that brings strength to live life with intensity. Jonna shares her first-hand experience.
WHEN YOU FOUND OUT
I found out I had cancer while being in Mexico, after getting a growing lump on my throat checked. It was crushing! “Am I dying?” – is the one thought that pops up immediately, then “no”, then “how do I tell my family this?”. Telling my family in Denmark via video chat, was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life! I flew to Denmark and within 2 weeks of multiple studies and scans I had my final diagnosis, with the reassuring words from the doctor that “my chances for recovery were good”. Line of thought going forward: “I’ll get through this!”
Chemotherapy is a strange challenge! It takes away all your energy and while it’s saving your life, it feels like it slowly takes you apart. I had to find the patience to slow down life, sleep sufficiently to recover and remember to keep eating well to fuel the fight going on inside. And I didn’t know, but every person gets their own special “cocktail” of chemo, specific to the cancer, stage and your physical health in general. I had 3 consecutive days of injected chemotherapy every 2 weeks for 6 treatments. Around 8 hours of chemo and anti-bodies per time, chemo in pill form, bone marrow booster injections and various pills against nausea and antibiotics to help my defenses, because chemo destroys the immune system.
THE FIRST STEPS IN RECOVERY ON THE BIKE
I was lucky to be able to ride a little still while I was in treatment, which made that time easier. Also, my family and friends were very supportive, taking the time to do rides, waiting for me and even towed me for a fantastic day in the woods before my last chemo! It took me a bit by surprise, just how weak the chemo left me, but my handling skills were still there, so I “just” had to build my strength and confidence back up again. In a way, getting back on the bike, was like a reminder of all the good things still to come.
WHEN THEY TOLD YOU, YOU WERE CANCER FREE
When they told me I was cancer free, it was a relief! I had hoped to get that answer in December of 2020, but my PET scan wasn’t 100%, so I had to wait an extra 2 months. I had prepared myself for bad news, so when the doctor told me “Everything looks fine” I had to ask if that meant that I was cancer free and he said yes! I think my mom had more of a reaction than me, but also, I can only imagine how hard that time was on her! Having people around you who cares is both hard, because you don’t want to be the reason they hurt, and at the same time they’re the ones who keep you happy, loved and motivated throughout the process!
RETURNING TO ENJOY IT
I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of going out on a ride! And since the day I started pedalling again after being at the hospital, it gave me an extra boost of energy for the process. Returning to racing came with a fair amount of nerves, anxiety and a desire to do well. I had been in my top shape before this happened, so it was hard not to strive for and expect that same level of myself again! But recovering takes time! I went all-in straight away and rode my first DH World Cup and EWS with barely 4 months of being cancer free. And as hard as it was, it was also amazing! Beautiful places, fantastic trails, met new incredible people and got to push myself chasing the world’s fastest women. Chasing the best I can be and continue to push for my goals on the bike. Life on bikes has truly given me so many beautiful memories, friendships, and adventures. I can’t imagine what my life would have been without it!