Image: Danny taking part in the One More City cycle ride. Credit: Danny Rodgerson/One More City
In a few weeks, I’ll turn 36. That might not sound like much to shout about, but it is for me.
When I was seven, I lost my 36-year-old mum to cancer.
I don’t actually remember much about her being ill. I don’t know if I was too young to understand, if my mum just did a great job of hiding it from me, if I did understand but put up a barrier to protect myself, or maybe I genuinely just don’t remember.
The only thing that sticks out for me at that time was that I made jokes about her hair falling out – obviously it wasn’t in a nasty way. It was just a funny thing for a seven-year-old boy to see.
My mum, Christine, had had skin cancer before I was born, but she’d had it removed, and been given the all-clear. Then she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and seven months later they found out it had spread to her brain and bones. It was quite an aggressive cancer to have spread that quickly, and I think it was quite quick for everyone to get their head around.
I’ve always wanted to do something to support research into advanced, also known as secondary, breast cancer, and I was particularly keen to do a challenge the year I turned 36.
'This was a real test'
It was by chance I heard about the cycling campaign, One More City. I got an email saying there was a cycling jersey on sale with all profits going to the campaign. I thought the jersey looked cool, read the story behind it, saw all the money raised funds for research into secondary breast cancer, spoke to the campaign’s founder, Christine O’Connell, and then signed up to their London to Land’s End challenge.
I’m a fairly experienced cyclist, but I like flat, fast rides. This was a real test. I’ve never done endurance cycling before, and I had to spend months retraining my mind and my body.
And, I have to admit, I’m a complete fair-weather cyclist. Normally, if I look out of the window and it’s raining, I just won’t go. This time though, I had to look out of the window, see rain, fog, cold and wind, and then spend 8-10 hours cycling through it.
But it was such an incredible thing to be a part of.
Although we were all there for the same reason, we didn’t dwell on it. The camaraderie was amazing, and everyone was so supportive of each other. We were just one movement, albeit one movement that was often very wet and very tired.
'It made the whole thing much more real'
I was so young when my mum died, and I hadn’t known much about secondary breast cancer. I didn’t actually realise this was something that could be lived with.
Most people on the ride had been personally affected by cancer, but there were a few cyclists who were living with cancer.
It made the whole thing much more real, and I found it quite emotional.
Image: Danny and the One More City riders reach Land's End. Credit: Danny Rodgerson/One More City
In total, we cycled for 35 hours (with another 5 hours changing flat tyres), climbed 9,000 metres of hills and absorbed approximately 2 million drops of rainfall.
I set my fundraising target at £3,600 as I wanted it to be linked to the number 36.
I found it quite hard to raise the money, as I don’t know many people who have been affected by secondary cancer, so the cause didn’t hammer home with as many of my peers like it does for me.
Huge progress in breast cancer research
But this research could help so many people.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in Europe, and 20-30% of patients will go on to develop secondary breast cancer, which is no longer curable.
I have a one-year-old daughter, and by the time she turns 36, I hope that secondary breast cancer isn’t something she needs to worry about.
Research into breast cancer has meant that so many people now survive the disease, and I hope that by funding research into secondary breast cancer, we can achieve the same thing.
Until then, I’ll try to keep braving the elements, and I’ll try to keep raising awareness for this extremely worthwhile cause.
You can donate to One More City on the One More City JustGiving page.
Find out more about their work, and how to get involved, on the One More City website.
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