Cycling For Sophie column: ‘The news turned my world upside down’
Nursing a sore neck, a hip that now resembles a depiction of the aurora borealis and a badly scraped arm wasn’t how I was planning to end my first training ride for a big charity challenge.
But when your sister is recovering from having her kidney removed and battling secondary cancers, you can hardly complain.
December was the month when our family, still grieving my grandad’s death only a month beforehand, had our world turned upside down.
Hearing that your 24-year-old sister (the youngest of the three of us) has cancer is a massive shock.
It was a hammer blow to us all, but, among family and friends, we are now pouring all our positive energy into hoping that advances in research and drugs, along with Sophie’s fighting mentality, can beat it.
Inspired by her courage and ‘bouncebackability’ (I had to use a football reference at some point) following complications in the operation, myself and her partner, Peter Hart, decided to channel (and pedal) our new year energy into something positive.
How to donate: Going online at http:// uk.virginmoney giving.com/ cyclingforsophs
That is when, along with friends James Mould and James King, we joined forces to sign up for the Ipswich Town-run Tour of Suffolk; a 150-mile ride across our beautiful county across two days in May (14-15).
Cancer Research UK will benefit from 50 per cent of our fund-raising efforts, while The Friends of Ipswich Town, who are responsible for organising educational visits as well as the annual Christmas hospital and hospice player visits, will take the other 50 per cent.
We had a commitment to raise £500 per person (the cost of the trip and overnight stay was paid out of our own money already).
But the huge generosity of family, friends and work colleagues meant our joint £2,000 target was amazingly passed in a little over 24 hours after launching our Virgin Money Giving page.
Just over two weeks on, we are looking on course to at least double it (£3,500 is where it stood at the time of writing).
Back to the cycling, and it will not be the first time I have done this, having taken part in a 150-mile ride from London to Amsterdam for Prostate Cancer UK and Ipswich Town Academy as part of former Bury Town player and bar-owner Simon Milton’s TEAM ITFC in 2015. But I’ve lost some fitness since becoming a dad in the time since.
And while my legs may still have it in them, 75 miles a day back-to-back isn’t something you can just turn up and do, so I was out on my bike again on Sunday, unable to feel my toes.
This time, I didn’t have to contend with the sheet ice that proved my downfall at the end of my first 17-mile run on a Moreton Hall cycle path though.
On two levels now, I’m learning that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.