Both my parents have suffered from cancer – but only one lived to tell the tale.
As a teenager I was blissfully unaware of illness and disease, other than the eventual consequence of getting old. But when I was 17, that all changed. My father was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and in the late 1970s the combination of surgery and chemotherapy treatment was actually quite ground breaking. My father’s treatment was as an outpatient at the Royal Marsden, and I believe this was also about the same time as Bob Champion – the well known jockey – was being treated for the same male cancer disease.
As the all clear came through, and the length of time between my father’s check-ups increased, so our family optimism for the future improved. But then in 1982, just after I had started my final year at University, that all changed.
My mother started to notice chest pain. To the best of my knowledge she had never been a smoker, so we didn’t think the “C” word. Unfortunately by the time the doctors had diagnosed the primary cancerous infection, the disease had spread so far that she died a matters of weeks later. She was 56.
Over the past 30 years I am pleased to say that much progress had been made on both the screening for cancer and the effectiveness of the treatment methods. The survival rates for many of the most common diseases is now 90%+, meaning that many people can now live with the disease, rather than die from it. That is a very important distinction to make, and is always the key question to ask clinicians when cancer is diagnosed.
So why do we need to raise money to continue the research programme? Well, one of the unintended consequences of fact that we are all living longer, coupled with the rise in new health problems caused by obesity, is that cancer rates will in the future increase. But there is some good news emerging for those that focus on exercise and movement as part of their rehabilitation process. The latest cancer research shows that patients that have completed their primary cancer-related treatment, who then engage in physical activity, can enhance their health.
The funds that I will be raising by my participation in this years charity ride will be used by the Dallaglio Foundation. Their mission really resonates with me “it’s not just about making money, it’s about translating great ideas into meaningful actions”. A key benefactor project will be an ICGC project on prostate cancer genetics. This exciting initiative will read the complete genetic codes of 250 prostate cancer patients; the results will mean that scientists can differentiate between fast and slow growing tumours for the first time and will help to build a new era of personalised medicine.
So I know which side of the fence I stand on over this cancer issue. Whilst we continue to fund research into cures for this terrible disease that can break families apart, we also need to educate people on the steps that they can take themselves to maintain a healthy life-balance. Hence the reason why the idea of using a cycling challenge to not only fund-raise for the good causes involved but also to raise people’s self awareness of the benefits from regular exercise.
I hope you can support me in both of these objectives.