Cancer is Hell.
In early 2013 I was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer (cancer of the gullet). This was a shock. I was fit, healthy, and by all accounts someone with a very low risk of being affected by such a disease.
I was just plain unlucky.
My consultant said at the time of my assessment and diagnosis: 'this is very serious, but fixable'.
Two years later I realise how serious it was and luckily for me it has been fixed. (I explain more of my story below.)
The team under the leadership of Consultant Surgeon Mr. Nick Maynard that sorted me did a fantastic job, and I want to help them help others.
I signed up to cycle with some of the Churchill Hospital team from one end of Great Britain to the other end. From close to the most northern point of John O'Groats in Scotland, to close to the most southern point at Land's End in England - "JOGLE". Approx. 1,000 miles in 10 days - yes 100 miles a day each consecutive day for 10 days.
The purpose of the ride was to raise funds to help the team that fixed me, and to help the support group [OOSO] that helps their patients.
You can find more about our JOGLE charity fund raising ride: http://www.ooso.org.uk/collage/collage.html.
If you want to - click on their link and support them by donating money to this excellent charity.
Go to the donation page, here: [https://www.charitycheckout.co.uk/1152733/Donate] and please donate some money. We hoped to raise over £50,000 as we hoped our contacts and friends would be generous (read to the bottom to see how much we did raise...). Click if you want to donate now...
Thank you for your support.
My Story - a little more information
In November 2012 I returned from a regular monthly US trip but did not manage to get rid of the jet lag. Normally this would take about 3 days and I would be fine - but not this time. By December I still had no energy and just did not feel 100% - more like 50%. Unlike me.
I paid for some full body scans, medical checks etc - did all the 'serious' tests like heart, lungs, blood, brain, CAT, MRI scans etc - but nothing found... Curious. Over the Christmas break I was needing more rest and found I was just not enjoying my food and was too tired to do much. In January 2013 I found discomfort when eating, and sometimes had hiccups when eating - my preference became less solid foods. Clearly something wrong. Local doctor initially prescribed stomach anti-acid settlers. Changed to doctor who arranged inspection with camera down my throat. Found lump. Diagnosis: oesophageal cancer.
I was now put in the care of Mr Nick Maynard of the Oxford OesophagoGastric Centre at the Churchill Hospital.
[It is to Nick Maynard and his team and their care and treatment that I owe my current good health and my life. It is for their work that I want your support to raise money to help them and to support the other patients they help.]
After two weeks of quite intrusive exploration we found that I was 'lucky' as my cancer was detected early and had not spread too far...
Cancer is Hell. Chemo too.
In March/April I had some pretty serious Chemotheraphy - ECX. I know it is prescribed to help, but it was just bad. The plan was 3 courses of Chemo followed by surgery, followed by 3 more courses of Chemo. A plan, something to look forward to...
Each course of Chemo was very difficult in different ways. From everything tasting of cardboard, to loss of appetite, projectile vomiting, to collapse of veins, to loss of skin on feet and hands making walking or touching things extremely painful. But it worked, my cancer was 'responding well' and shrinking fast... a good thing. They wanted it reduced to make the surgery more likely to be successful.
I re-read the 'its not about the bike' book by Lance Armstrong. He has fallen from grace recently, but I found it an inspirational read about how he discovered his cancer and how he fought it.
I too would fight - I continued to go to work on all days I was not in the hospital and started to go out and force myself back into the routine of jogging - though my strength and energy was decreasing with my weight due to the Chemo.
May 2013 was the month of the surgery - an 8.5 hour procedure to open my chest and back, remove my oesophagus, and move my stomach up to replace it. It is one of the most complex/long operations that one can elect to have. Some patients just don't have the health to risk having such a procedure. I emerged from the surgery with some 20 tubes sticking out of my body and spent ten days in the hospital before being 'well enough' to go home to continue my recovery. It was a great success, with only 3 more Chemo sessions to look forward to, and for the mending of my chest and back where my ribs had been cut apart so the surgery team could put their hands inside me...
Here is a photo of a few of the 'staples' used to stitch my chest up after they were removed from me.
Six weeks after the operation I was making a good recovery, and my strength and stamina returning well though slowly - I was probably at about 30% of my previous fitness. I then got an interesting phone call - it was the England Team Selectors - asking if I was available to represent England in the Olympic Skeet Home International Competition in Scotland in 5 weeks time - I had previously represented England in this shotgun shooting competition twice before and had competed in the qualification competitions before my operation, and had forgotten to withdraw my application. I called up Mr. Maynard and he felt it would be a good thing to focus on to look forward to, and he reassured me my chest was mending well and that nothing would 'come out' due to the impact of the firing of the shotgun.
I started working hard on getting fitter and started training and practising with the gun. So 11 weeks after surgery I travelled up to Scotland with my family to represent my country - in the same team as my son. I did not shoot well, England did win, but it was a very tiring and at some times painful event, though one that had forced me to improve my fitness and accelerate my rate of recovery.
I planned to start travelling/flying again October. This got delayed when after feeling pains in my chest it was discovered I had 'pulmonary embolisms' - a condition of the lining of the lungs - blood clots all over them... so my ideas of flying were shelved for a few more months while my blood got thinned and all the blood clots reduced. In February 2014 I started travel again for work including flying to the USA - and was fully functional though still with not much stamina and still much discomfort.
In October 2014 at a review meeting with Mr. Maynard, I was given the all clear with the statement that I was 'cancer free' and that as I was recovering so well and my fitness was good would I like to get involved in a 'little fundraising' event that Mr. Maynard was arranging - 'a bike ride' - 'sure' I said, 'where are we going?' The team was going to do an 'end to end' ride from one end of the country to the other. John O'Groats to Land's End (JOGLE). Approx. 1000 miles, 100 miles a day, and would I like to participate. I was in, though there was some miscommunication. Nick had asked if I would like to be involved, thinking I might do one part, e.g. one 100 mile section, while I had assumed I would do the ride, i.e. the whole thing. I will be doing the whole 1,000 miles!!!
I got my old road bike out, and managed about 3 miles in the first ride - painful, hard work, and I was exhausted - I just had so little stamina - well I had about 10 months before the date of the September 2015 ride - so I could train and get fit.
I remembered reading in the Lance Armstrong book how after his treatment he returned to cycling with a similar strength but a much improved power/weight ratio as he had lost some 30 pounds during his treatment. I had lost some 50 pounds, so when I got fit I would expect similar improvement. So I started to cycle more - and the more exercise I did, the more stamina I gained, and the further I could ride.
In February 2015 I bought a new light road racing bike (the frame weighing in at less than 800 grams) and my training and cycling became more serious. I found I enjoyed the hills and my favourite local ride is 3 climbs in a series of loops up the Chilterns totalling 46 miles including just over 2,000 feet of climbing that I can do now relatively easily in under 4 hours.
To get ready for the 100 mile days of the JOGLE it is important to do long rides so I started doing some longer rides, and in April did one 85 miler including 3 times up the Chilterns, and added in Long Crendon, Ashendon, and Brill hills to add more climbing. Only 7 hours... tough but good. I did stop for about an hour for lunch too...
In May I did a fund raising 'century ride' for Breast Cancer Research of just under 100 miles round Oxfordshire. What a day - it rained for 6 of the 7 hours and there was much standing water - a very tiring day.
I was in California in mid May for business and arranged to go to Lake Tahoe with my bike to cycle round it. After all, California in May, it was bound to be 70+ degrees and sunny. Wrong. It was 45-50 degrees and rained most of the day but it was still an enjoyable and fantastic training ride.
Beautiful views (of Emerald Bay above), 88 Miles, over 6,000 feet of climbing, and completed in 6.5 hours though I did have several breaks as I tried to buy more warm waterproof clothing as it was wet all day.
In June I wanted to see what it felt like to be in the saddle for consecutive days.
I cycled each day for 10 days trying to cover between 20 and 50 miles each day. I totalled over 28 hours in 10 days and covered almost 360 miles and climbed almost 3 miles. It was tough but gave me confidence that I could manage the 10 days of JOGLE.
In July I tried to see what a hard week on the bike might feel like....
And the answer was some significant medication was needed:
July was my big month:
And I thought I would ease down a little in August, and we went on holiday to Cornwall - and there were some good hills. This one almost did me in... It said 25% but when I checked it later on ridewithgps.com it said it peaked at 28.5%... wow. It was tough (though it was short).
And now it is late August - with only a few days to go - and I am just doing easy 30 mile rides on alternate days and then Monday I pack the bike up and get ready to go...
The routes are pretty close to sorted - currently 950+ miles - but I am sure we will change things and get lost a little.
Click on the route name to see the detail of the ride on ridewithgps.com. This shows detail of the route, and also the hills etc.
|Route (click to see detail in ridewithgps.com)
|John O'Groats to Dingwall
|Dingwall to Glencoe
|Glencoe to Lanark
|Lanark to Penrith
|Penrith to Wigan
|Wigan to Kidderminster
|Kidderminster to Oxford
|Oxford to Glastonbury
|Glastonbury to Liskeard
|Liskeard to Land's End
Day 9 looks like a challenge... long day with lot of hills near the end.
But before I go on the big ride - how much training did I actually do.
|ave. climb per 100 miles
|new bike, improving distance
|lot of climbing
Yep a lot of training, including 35.5 miles of height climbed...
One of the big challenges I face, apart from the actual ride - is the nutrition while riding... I expect to consume between 2,500 and 4,000 calories a day during the ride - and this is hard seeing I choose not to eat meat, and due to the surgery can no longer tolerate sugars or simple carbohydrates and need more frequent smaller meals than most people... I need a lot of protein. While cycling I am trying to eat an average of approximately 5-10 calories a minute...
My wife, Penny has created some fantastic 'nutty cookies' that are high protein, very low sugar, high-GI, and are lots of nuts and goodness. About 70-150 calories each. I eat many on the rides - if you want the recipe click here (as it is on the OOSO site...).
So I spent a lot of time training and preparing for the JOGLE fund raising ride in September.
Thanks to those that supported me by donating to this fantastic cause, and that helped me help others.
Update DURING the rides.
Click on the route name to see the notes I have made for that day - and any photos.
|Route (click to see detail and notes and pictures)
|Arrival at John O'Groats (click to see notes and pictures)
|John O'Groats to Dingwall (click to see notes and pictures)
|Dingwall to Glencoe (click to see notes and pictures)
|Glencoe to Lanark (click to see notes and pictures)
|Lanark to Penrith (click to see notes and pictures)
|Penrith to Wigan (click to see notes and pictures)
|Wigan to Kidderminster (click to see notes and pictures)
|Kidderminster to Oxford (click to see notes and pictures)
|Oxford to Glastonbury (click to see notes and pictures)
|Glastonbury to Liskeard (click to see notes and pictures)
|Liskeard to Land's End (click to see notes and pictures)
|Departure from Land's End (click to see notes and pictures)
|14 to 16-Sept-15
|Postscript (Richard) (click to see notes and pictures)
|My next ride - disaster strikes (click to see notes and pictures)
|Mount Hamilton with Richard (click to see notes and pictures)
Some final stats:
Cycled for 72 hours and 16 minutes over 10 consecutive days.
Covered 956 miles.
Climbed 53,989 feet (about 10 and a 1/4 miles).
Spun the pedals approximately 256,000 times.
Starting weight 84.5 Kg. Ending weight 84.7 Kg = great result.
Thanks for your interest and your support, Simon.
And here is the route map for the whole ride...