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"What I'm telling people is to fight this thing," he added. "Don't lie in bed, get up and do something. If you can only walk two feet then walk those two feet and go for three feet tomorrow."
Riess isn't fully recovered yet and may never be 100 per cent. He has some strength issues with his core and he has lasting numbness in his right hand.
Still, he's managed to complete about six sprint triathlons since he started down the long road to recovery, and resume his passion bike touring. As well, he picked up a new hobby since his illness: writing books. He's written three so far and is currently on his fourth.
"I've always loved to read, anybody came into Bestsellers to talk literature with me would know that right away," he said.
"When I was sick I had a vision — I've never had one before or any literary aspirations, but it gave me my first book, beginning, middle and end. It's not something I would have ordinarily chosen to write, but the more I tried to put it off the more I found I needed to write it."
The first one was the hardest because he had to teach himself to write first, but he has since followed up with two more books.
He tried to find an agent for a while, but realized it was more fun to write than try to sell the books. Now, he's using them as an inducement to get people to contribute to his cause: if you make a $15 donation to his cause he'll send you a copy of one of his books.
His story was featured in the Winnipeg Free Press, the city he grew up in, and the donations have started to come in — as well as requests for more books. "People would read one of my books and start asking me for the other ones, which is the best I could ask for."
Riess has only one goal for his books, and that's to make people laugh.
"I had two goals when I started writing. One is that they had to be wildly original stories that have never been written before; the second was that they had to be humorous and nobody was allowed to die," he said. "I'd rather make the world laugh. I don't want people to read my books and say 'that depressed me.'"
One book is called The Book of Gareth, and is about what happens when two Messiahs appear in our wired, modern world.
The second is called Smarty Pants: The Outrageous Adventures of the World's Wisest Man, which is about the world's smartest man working to solve the world's biggest problems after overhearing a conversation at a coffee shop. The third is called The 1st Canadian Guru, about a hockey player who has a vision, discovers a unique form of meditation and becomes a global guru.