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Diagnosed with a rare and incurable heart disease, cyclist Hayden Roulston thought his career was over—until a chance meeting in a pub with an alternative healer literally gave him a new lease of life.
Roulston was just 25 years old when he was diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD), a condition which is known to cause sudden death in athletes. Up to that point, Roulston had spent a handful of seasons competing for professional teams Cofidis and Lance Armstrong's Discovery Team. But when his condition was diagnosed in 2006, he was told to stop competing. Bad news for a professional cyclist with ambitions to succeed on the Tour de France's 3,500 kilometres.
Yet three years on, and Roulston is an Olympic silver-medalist who on Saturday claimed third on stage 14 of the Tour. And before March's Tour of California, he got the confirmation from a doctor telling him what he already knew: he has a healthy heart.
"Three years ago, I was diagnosed with (ARVD), but before the Tour of California a doctor told me I have a healthy heart," said the 28-year-old. "It's like a second life and I have got my dream back as a cyclist."
Four months after he was first diagnosed with ARVD, he met alternative healer Julie Reid in a Christchurch pub. Their conversation disrupted his beers with mates but it put Roulston back on the path to the Tour. A quick five-minute session of Reiki, an ancient Japanese healing practice that is said to channel negative energy out of the body, failed to produce any obvious results until his next bike session. "I had finished with cycling, all my dreams were gone. I had nothing to lose," he said. "Next day I went training and felt something different. I wasn't missing a heart beat and I was getting 300 beats per minute on a heart-rate monitor. A 300 rate means virtual death—my normal heart-rate is 170 to 180—so, for me, 300 was a massive, massive issue.