LifeCycle For Neuroblastoma

LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma Brand

Welcome to LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma, the home of the LifeCycle challenge in aid of Solving Kids Cancer.

I’m Steve Taylor, aka Von Schiehallion, the LifeCycle man.

Solving Kids Cancer helps families affected by the childhood cancer, neuroblastoma. In most cases neuroblastoma is only diagnosed when it has already progressed to a late ‘high risk’ stage.  Even when children are tested clear of neuroblastoma after initial hospital treatment, a high percentage of children with high risk neuroblastoma will relapse and some children will not respond to therapy.

LifeCycle is an extraordinarily difficult challenge meeting an extraordinarily difficult disease head on.

Here’s the deal: The circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,902 miles. The LifeCycle target was 25,000 miles of commuting to and from work in 4 years. That’s the same as cycling from London to Manchester every week: but there’s also a thousand feet of climbing in each direction. That’s equivalent to climbing Ben Nevis twice a week on a bike. The route passes by Europe’s biggest onshore windfarm at Whitelee. There’s a windfarm on the Eaglesham Moor for a very good reason… And as if all that wasn’t enough, I was 60 when I started, and just over four years from retirement. The only way to complete this challenge was to never give up. I didn’t: I completed it in six weeks short of three years, then just kept going. Think “Forest Gump on two wheels“.

This is LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma.

The full ongoing story is here in the blog. You can become a supporter and get involved, at either


If you’re on Facebook, then please have a look at the LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma group. It’s full of the latest news, photos and various bits and pieces from the LifeCycle Twitter feed.

Here are the LifeCycle miles

And here’s the story so far…

MARCH 2017


Don’t Look Back In Anger

Eil’ Drink To That

Down Under


Ode To Joy (Puddles Remix)

We Shall Overcome

After The Lord Mayor’s Show

The Bucket List



When Tomorrow Comes

The Journey Fae Hell

It’s Now Or Never

The Next Time




If It Disney Work, Just Keep Trying…

A Stroke Of Luck

The 2016 LCFN Awards


Wum Story

Frozen Puddles

Got My Mojo Workin’

The Italian Job

Flagless And Fancy Free


United In Adversity

Baby Dennis

How Long’s A Piece Of String?

Quad Bike


The Hardest Words

Living Puddlian

Beautiful, Beautiful Eileidh

113 and a miss




Aussie, Aussie, Aussie

On The Road Again

Out And About In Puddleshire

JULY 2016

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)

The Oven Bucket Challenge


JUNE 2016

About A Girl

My Way



To Puddles With Love

MAY 2016

Around The World In (500 and) 80 Days

24 Carat Gold Cake

Oscar 2 Eileidh

APRIL 2016


The Fightback

To Infinity And Beyond

The Land Of Make BELIEVE

The Times They Are A Changin’

MARCH 2016

When I’m Back On My Feet Again

Slange Var!

The 39 Steps



No Pain, No Gain

Buy One, Get One Free

Black Ice Ops

Hoo Ha Henry


Gertrude, Sister Of Bawbag

Shirley Knott

Ice Station Yompa

Wee Kian Do It


The LCFN Awards 2015

The Very Best Of 2015

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

The Wheels On The Bus

It Never Rains But It Pours


Something Inside, So Strong

When The Going Gets Tough…

The Princess And The Magic Garden

When You’re Going Through Hell, Just Keep Going…


LCFN Goes Platinum In October For Children With Neuroblastoma

The Hundred Days Of Hell

A Question Of Semantics

Because I Can

When September Ends


New Gold Dream

The Sky’s The Limit

Never Give Up

Going For Gold


Awareness, Awareness, Awareness

Planting Seeds In Fallow Ground

Bad Things Come In Threes

Our Father

One Day At A Time

JULY 2015

Here We Go, Ten In A Row

I’m On A Train / London Calling

Double Puddles

Puddlemania Hits The States

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Kids In America

JUNE 2015

Fire Tiger

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Super In Love


MAY 2015

How A Walk Became A Cancer Crusade

The Anniversary Waltz

Forres Gump

I’d Ride A Million Miles For One Of Your Smiles

Take It To The Limit

APRIL 2015

C’mon Eileidh

Ecstasy, Passion And Pain

Monday The 13th

The Spirit Of Walfrid

It’s All Downhill From Here

MARCH 2015

Halfway To Paradise

Sugar Sugar

Boom And Bust

Gimme Closure


Patience Is A Virtue

Cause Or Just Impingement

Off The Cuff

A Retirement Home


King Commute

Just Another Day

The English Patient


On The Road Again


2014’s Greatest Hits

12,000 Miles – A Christmas Song

Riders On The Storm

Sometimes, Words Are Not Enough

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town


Live Every Day Like It’s Your Last

Everything In Perspective

Back From The Grail

The Holy Grail


You’ll Never Walk Alone

Whole Lotta Love

I Don’t Like Mondays (Except This One)

The Bucking Bronco

Frauday Morning


Give ‘Em Both Barrels

Back To The Future

My Body Is Revolting

Ma Wee Sair Knee


Rest If You Must But…

The Third Man

The Bike Hospital

King Of The Mountains

The Carnival Is Over

JULY 2014

End Of Term Report

The Three Seasons

Advance To Glasgow – 200 Days Since Passing Go

The Lesser Spotted Pot-Bellied Lycra Man

JUNE 2014

And I Would Bike 500 More…

Getting Yer Angles Right

Playing Injury Time…The Wizard Of Oz

MAY 2014

Mega May

Vastus Medialis – Injurus Crampus

One Undred An Eighty…. Two

Keep Right On To The End Of The Road

It Might As Well Rain Until September

APRIL 2014

The Long And Winding Road

Magical Mystery Tour

A Case Of Pineau De Re

Permalactic Legs

MARCH 2014

Wanted – A Magician

Bonus Track – Hey Paula

The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Chugger/Gone With The Wind

Under Pressure

Fuel For Sport


The Ten Commandments Of LifeCycle

Ultrasound and Intervals

Hail Hail, the Spring Is Here!

A Lighter Shade Of Pale


No Regrets

They Think It’s All Over – It Will Be In July 2017

The Impossible Dream

LifeCycling – The Movement

Into The Groove


Groundhog Day

The Battle Of Wounded Knee

That Darned Competitive Dawg

Paul McConville


Fuel For Thought

Bonus Miles

Kick Off


Everest beckons: for feet, read miles. I feel like I’ve been crouched in my wee tent for days, waiting for the weather to break long enough to allow an attack on the summit, followed by a safe descent back to where I am now. The weather has been shit for ages: I know that for a fact because I’ve been out in it, chipping away at what’s left to scale the peak. Actually, I’ve not been in my tent at all. That bit was fake news.

But today the sun finally came out. Three days, possibly four, of sunshine to lift these tired legs up one last ascent to 29 thou: and a bit. The bit is another 29, which on this journey is tantamount to torture. It’s not 29 feet, it’s another 29 miles, and that itself is probably another 1600 feet of climbing. Everest is 29,029. C’est la vie.

I’ve been at this game long enough now to realise that the only way to keep moving forward is, well, to keep moving forward. If the total miles are the same tomorrow as they were yesterday it’s because you didn’t move yer arse. Now there may be a good reason for that: work, rest, illness and injury are all legit. But see cannae be arsed? That’s a red card offence: bed now, and no tea as my old man used to say. I think they threw that mould away when he died of cancer when I was just 19. That’s the same age that my Finn’s at just now. Scary thought.

Shifting yer arse is key to this game. Any old excuse will do when it’s ten minutes to heading out the door and it’s lashing with rain. Any old excuse would have done on Tuesday morning when Stewarton woke to a blizzard (as I’d predicted as far back as this time last week). But see that day I banged in 31 miles in 3 inches of snow before Christmas? That set the benchmark. That put a line in the sand. That was the trip that screamed “Advance to Killie: Collect 200 LCFN points if you pass Go”. I passed Go that day simply so that I would never, ever have the excuse, ever again of leaving the bike in the shed. Tuesday, and that snow, was instrumental in making this week. Anyway, you expect snow on Everest, even in March.

I’m on a bit of a run just now, just a tiny one, but a run nonetheless. All big runs start as wee ones. I’ve extrapolated the LCFN spreadsheet out to 30th September next year when I plan to roll into Adelaide. By hook or by crook, that ride needs to come to 40,000 miles. But here’s the tantalising bit: there are still 555 days between now and then. 555 days to knock off 11,000 miles. Do the maths: it’s 19.8 a day or thereabouts, assuming no days off. Aye right. Holidays, work, illness, injury, they’re all going to eat into that. So the best I can do is look back: what have I managed to date? Today was day number 785 on the road out of a possible 1314 (who mentioned Bannockburn?) which is basically 60% give or take 0.3%. That’s three and a half years: on the road six days out of every ten, or three out of five if you like. And for every one of those 785 days, the average has been 36. So 19.8’s a piece o’piss, right? Er… no. It’s still gotta be done. And I ain’t getting any younger. 64 last week.

The real metric, the sensible one, is to take that 60% and wipe out 40% of the 555 days that are left: that leaves 333, or as my Joe used to say when he was wee “tree, tree tree”. Now we’re talking. That’s 33 a day. Oooft, that’s a shift and a half, especially in the winter: best make hay while the sun shines then.

You probably thinking I’m talking rubbish. Take yersel’ oot the hoose for two hours tomorrow and do something out of your comfort zone: walk, cycle, swim, whatever. Then do it again the next day. And the next day. And the one after that. You can have a day off once you’ve done thirty in a row: two hours, every day. That’s the LCFN gig. Except it used to be four when I worked in Glasgow. I’ve gone soft in my old age.

It’s interesting cos my mate Lardy, who I knew 35 years ago before a 25 year timewarp ensued, messaged me yesterday to report that it was so feckin cold out at his bit that he was thinking of leaving the bike in the shed. Now I don’t have a problem with that cos Lardy puts in a shift whenever he can, but his point was how the hell did I manage over the Fenwick Muir, both ways, virtually every working day for three and a half years. Lardy, it’s commitment mate. Every long run starts with the very first day, and every day that you can stick another one on the pile is a day that will will ensure you get yer arse out that door again at 5am tomorrow: doesn’t matter if it’s lashing, doesn’t matter if it’s -6C. What matters is that you make the commitment, from day one, to do this, to make things as difficult as they can be, and to keep doing it. It reminds me of the Cumbernauld Marathon Walk: you walk a hundred miles in a day and win one: the pain fades and you want two. You win two, you start to understand the pain that got you there and you want three simply because the guy that wants four in a row needs to be harder than you. And no one is harder than you. That’s basically the way you deal with these things. Difficult is good. Difficult is challenging. Difficult is worth doing and sticking in there…

Because that’s the way it is for the kids and their families.

Gail and Eileidh were in London this week for tests to determine whether she is eligible, medically, for a new form a treatment. We all know what happened in London on Wednesday and your first reaction is ask yourself whether people are safe. Fortunately, that was the case, but those that died were someone’s family: husband, wife, father, mother, son or daughter. They were someone’s family, and that matters.

Now, if you know me well, you’ll know that I’m always up to something. And I am. Again. If you know, don’t spill the beans. I’m giving nothing away. What I’m up to wasn’t even on the radar a week ago but when you go through life doing stuff and exposing yourself to new ideas and new ways of looking at things, then ideas come. It’s happened again. Ross caught me on the hop with the LCFN book at Christmas but let me just say that if we manage to pull this one off, it will quite possibly equal it. Watch this space: guessing is welcomed but probably futile.

One final thing for this week: The March miles have been both persistent and resolute. Indeed if it hadn’t been for the barking lurgi I’d have been looking at a full house and there’s only ever been one of those ever (Dec ’16). So it looks like I’m on for the best monthly return since last June, back in the days when I was still chasing down the 25K threshold. Winter is finally on the way out: spring is in the air.

And Everest is in sight.

Let’s do this: to the summit…

Don’t Look Back In Anger

This one’s been in my head for weeks: I think I’ve written it about three or four times while I’ve been out on the road but this is now, right now, and I don’t do multi-tracking. LCFN: keeping blogging live.

One year ago today, I was dumped on the corporate scrapheap along with three of my colleagues. The day before my 63rd birthday will haunt me forever. The tap on the shoulder came around half ten in the morning and by eleven I was out of the building. It was the last time I cycled home from work in Glasgow as an employee. I was devastated. I’d been there 25 years, given the best, most productive and creative years of my working life to the company, and it all ended with an instant message and a walk up the corridor. I remember shaking inside as I was trying to comprehend the future: tossed aside two years and one day short of retirement. For what? The bottom line.

I wrote this a few days later, still in shock:

“The 5am starts are history. The 40 and 50 mile days on the bike are history. Riding the A77, Newton Mearns and Giffnock is history. New challenges lie ahead, in both my professional life and on two wheels. I have to say that by the time it got to the day before my 63rd birthday, I thought there was more than an even chance that I would make it to retirement in two years time with an unbroken career in IT of having worked every single day since I started back in July 1975. But for the third time in my career, redundancy tapped me on the shoulder.

The first time it happened in 1987, I took a job with a startup software house and began working for them on April 1st: maybe that was a sign because three and a half years later, when Ross Taylor wasn’t even one, they went bust. That was a scary time: mortgage, a young family, loss of the company car overnight, and the need to make a buck: fast (see what I did there?). I made a couple of phone calls when I got home that night, and those calls kept me afloat. The next morning at 4am, I set off (in a Mini) for Salford in Greater Manchester to carry on working on the project I’d been on for the previous two months. One of those calls was to my boss on the project. I’ll remember his words for as long as I live “if you can get yer arse on yer seat at starting time tomorrow, I’ll find you some work”. And he did: for six weeks, six weeks that brought me enough time to find the next four week contract, and so it went on. But that was no way to feed a young family so alongside all the travelling here, there and everywhere, I eventually found myself another permanent role. It lasted for 25 years and two months…

And then that all too familiar tap on the shoulder, the feeling that once you’ve experienced it you never forget, happened again.

But LCFN has taught me many things, and top of the pile by a distance is the notion that you should never, ever give up.

I’ve been in IT for 41 years and not missed a day’s employment in all of that time. And I’m not about to start now. So today I started working for myself”.

That was then.

This is now.

Six hours after being told I didn’t add value, I was headhunted. Headhunted by a company who, based on a telephone conversation around my track record in programming Excel, hired me for three months because they needed someone like me right then. Two weeks later, they binned the three month deal and made it twelve. Now it’s rolling.

I don’t do giving up.

Talk is cheap. Branding is cheap. Never Give Up is cheap unless you can prove it.

Eileidh’s proved it. She’s proved it twice. And right now, she’s in the process of proving it a third time. I don’t think you’re supposed to come through neuroblastoma three times. But this is Eileidh. She’s got her mum’s genes. #Formidable

And while I guess kids don’t get tattoos at five, that doesn’t matter because Eileidh’s got it tattooed into her soul. #Warrior

I’m just following her lead.

On the scrapheap, where my skills were redundant, I discovered disease detection. I found that I could do stuff that no one had ever done before by putting knowledge in the hands of the specialists. What we discovered, as a team, was that my software was able to do in uder two seconds what previously took months of manual craft. I prefer to call it teamwork. The guys I work with keep me right: and they inspire me. They have the knowledge, I have the data model…

And the rule engine.

Data is worthless unless you can turn it into knowledge.

Let me rephrase unless: make that until.

Data is worthless until you can turn it into knowledge.

I’ve got spreadsheets that predict football results with some accuracy.

I’ve got spreadsheets that predict virtual dog racing with some accuracy.

I’ve got spreadsheets that predict disease with some accuracy.

And I have a child cancer module: it took me two hours to knock it up on the train coming back from Liverpool. It works like this:

Suppose your child has been backwards and forwards to the doctor’s over the last few months, and suppose that your child has randomly presented some of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Vision problems
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pale skin

The software that I created after I’d been chucked on the corporate scrapheap can analyse the data that lies behind the visits to your GP. And if that was your child, it might just save their life: because it can spot the clustered symptoms. It’s not rocket science, it’s just mother’s common sense in action.

Now, armed with all this rekindled enthusiasm, I kinda find it strange that I’m gonna be 64 tomorrow. For five years, I’ve been counting down the days to my retirement, and now that it’s here, albeit one year down the road from now, I’m having such fun that I don’t want my working life to end. See when you know you’re making a difference and what you do is appreciated by the people you work for, it makes such a difference. That hasn’t happened for a very, very long time.

Changing the subject completely, if you read last week’s blog, you’ll know that I set myself up for my first 200 mile week since September. At the time, I recollected that it was my 70th, but what I forgot to do was re-check the log when I recalculated the miles to the nearest tenth back at Christmas time. Three of those two hundred and a bit mile weeks morphed into one hundred and ninety nine and something. So I’m back at 67. But that’s no big deal because the summer’s coming and I feel a groove coming on.

On the back of last week’s effort, I’ve been completely floored by the lurgi this week. In truth it started at the weekend but I’d already set my stall out so I bagged the 63 miles that I needed (and a bit) regardless. Monday was a lovely spring day so I cycled down to the coast. Then Tuesday it hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t do colds: colds are what other people get. One a year’s a bad year so two in four weeks is off the scale. It wasn’t the barking cough that got me, nor was it the sore head…. It was the tiredness. OMG: by 11am, four hours into the working day, I was done for. Being out on the road was a complete no no because I can’t risk pushing the bark further down into my chest. I once got diagnosed with pleurisy after carrying on running with a bad cold in the winter: I don’t wanna go back there again: one T shirt is enough.

And I’ve got a broken bike: again.

When I was coming back from Saltcoats on Monday, the chain was slipping summat terrible. At first I thought it was the freewheel that was away which wasn’t a big deal because Father Birthday is bringing me new wheels for the ones that I’ve worn out (if you run ‘em past their end of life, they explode: been there, done that, seen the shards of metal on the road).

But it wasn’t the freewheel.

It was the middle ring of the front chain ring: teeth ripped and no longer able to hold the chain: doom. Bike back in the hospital. It’s been a very expensive week…

But see in the grand scheme of things, I couldn’t give a shit. A year ago, I was cast aside as dead meat. Yesterday, I passed the SNOMED-CT Foundation Course that underpins the new global standard in integrated healthcare: four months of study knocked on the head in under two weeks. Today I applied for the advanced course in SNOMED-CT Implementation: as a birthday present to myself. I know I can still make a difference and change people’s lives.


Because like Princess Puddles, my hero, I don’t do giving up. I’ve proved it. So has she.

Onwards and upwards.

Don’t look back in anger.

Eil’ Drink To That

I know where she gets it from. Hell, it’s only take me the best part of two years to work it out, but now I know…

Like mother, like daughter.

Eileidh gets her incredible resilience and fighting spirit from her mum, and who knows, maybe even her cheeky wee smile too, but Gail doesn’t get much of a chance to practice that these days. Her life is so tough. The post that Gail put up in the week was simply outstanding in its soul bearing wretchedness. Where did that come from? How can you possibly write something that smacks you right between the eyes at a time like this? I’m a sixties soul brother fae Birmingham, brought up on a feast of Motown, Stax, Atlantic and Chess records. See if Otis Redding was with us today, he could have taken Gail’s searing blog and turned it into Gail Blue. Otis Blue was his finest work, his signature album and one of the greatest pieces of music ever laid down. Gail Blue would have stood alongside it, maybe even delivered by Aretha today.

Gail, I only have to flick through the comments on your stories to see how much respect, admiration and love that Eileidh’s supporters have for you. I know it’s hard, we all know it’s hard (actually we haven’t got a clue how hard it really is for you) but please, please, just keep doing what you’re doing: take each day at a time and we will all be standing with you. Eileidh is a mini you and every last ounce of strength that she has is because of what you are giving to her.

Now: road trip…

Bonnie and Clyde. Thelma and Louise. How’s about Gabby n Yompa. We ain’t planning on going robbin’, and we ain’t plannin’ on going stealin’ but we are plannin’ on pulling off the finale to end all finales. Remember last week’s story Down Under? If that was the bones, then this week it’s gained a wee bitta flesh.

Here’s the deal: LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma will end on September 30th 2018. In a world where everything happens for a reason, even if we don’t always understand what that reason is, the final days of LCFN are going to be the post poignant goosebumply, spine tingling days of my life. September is Kids Cancer Awareness Month. The most miles I ever rode in an LCFN month was 1112 in November ’15. Looking back I can’t believe I did that. I dubbed it a platinum ride at the time because I never saw daylight in any of those miles. 250+ four weeks in a row, in the dark in shit weather: platinum miles. But I always dreamt of titanium…

Now I have the chance.

I’m gonna ride from Brisbane to Adelaide in September 2018: 1200 miles. With Gabby riding shotgun in the van. 1200 is the titanium ride I never thought possible: so what better way than to do it on the final journey, to the home of the Strayan support team. The Adelaide Velodrome is where Anna Meares and Jimmy Harrington held the LCFN flag in December ’14. It’s the same venue where half of Adelaide (slight exaggeration – ed) will hold the flag at the end of the journey. The flag still says NCCA, that’s how long this gig has been going: they’ve been Solving Kids Cancer ever since Jane and I walked into their New York office back in the summer of ’15. I’m gunning for 40,000 miles. I suppose I could go on to do fifty but my body’s showing increasing signs of breaking. The back that used to be sore off the bike is now also sore on it. The quad that’s been bugging me since last summer still is. The hernia op that I had in January ’15 is grumbling. It all adds up and the signs, as far as pushing my body beyond its limits is concerned, is that enough is enough. I’m still 10,000 miles away from being able to set up the 40K finale in Adders, and if that’s gonna happen, then I’ve to ride at least 23 miles a day, 25 days a month, every month between now and then. And there’s another winter in there: but I’ve beaten four so one more won’t kill me.

There’s something about this journey that nags away at me. Constantly. It’s the fact that you can only ever achieve anything by putting yourself on the line. Constantly. Sixty nine times I’ve ridden 200 miles in a week, including the remarkable 36 in a row in 2015 going into ’16. That run started with Eileidh Paterson at Forres Mechanics FC. 200 mile weeks are feckin’ hard, believe me. And I haven’t done one since September. See when you haven’t scaled a peak for a while, it starts to eat away at you, like you’re never gonna be able to do that ever again. It gnaws away at you. And all you can do to stop it is work: work like fury, against all of your demons, to prove, just maybe, that you’ve still got it.

Cue this week…

It’s Friday night and there are two days left on the road before the book closes. 9,000ft of climbing since Monday and 137 miles. That’s woeful compared to the halcyon days of teaching the Fenwick Muir who’s boss but going big every day is really, really hard when you don’t actually have anywhere to go to. At least back then I had my work to ride to in Glasgow. Nowadays, I’m riding from a brain frazzling four hours sat on my own with Dennis, to another four hours sat on my own with Dennis. Dennis is a cat by the way. He kind of lives next to my desk when I’m working, and he sleeps through the time that I’m away. I guess he never really notices, after all he is a cat.

So let’s hark back to Gabby n Yompa for a moment. Gabby is my Inverness Caley Thistle supporting mate fae Brizza. As Aussie as they come: married a girl fae Inverness. Ring a bell? I did the same. I first met Gabby in Diggers in Edinburgh before Hearts away many moons ago. This big, tall ginger Aussie came up to me, clutching a beer, and said “are you ITN”? I was. My handle back in those days was InterTheNet so that dates it straightaway. I’ve been Yompa since 2006 when I walked pretty much the direct line fae Inverness to Dunfermline in two days: all 140 miles of it. The yomping bit relates back to the Falklands War when the marines lost all their helicopters on the Atlantic Conveyor and faced with an Argentinian resistance sixty miles away over the mountains, some wag remarked “it’s that way”. So off they went, carrying all their stuff: yomping was born. That’s pretty much the way I’ve led my life. Take on the unlikely, the improbable, the impossible, and just keep going.

Does that remind you of anyone?


We both have birthdays next week: the Princess will be five and I’ll be sixty four. Not much of a difference in the sense that we’re both kids at heart but as Gail so strikingly put when she opened her soul the other night “I’ve had my childhood, my teens, been married, had children. She deserves to have the same. She fights with all she has on a daily basis & still that doesn’t seem to be enough. What do I have to do? What more can I do? Have I missed something? Have I not researched enough? There has to be something”. Right there is why this matters. As I’m sat here penning this and as you’re sat there reading it, we’ve all had our lives. Yeah, we’ve made a few mistakes along the way but they were ours to make. Right now, Eileidh doesn’t have that choice. Every day that she keeps smiling is a bonus, not just for her but for all of us. She is our leader, our Princess in Chief, our Ms Chief Maker. She’s the wee girl that we just want to get better.

If there’s any light at the end of the tunnel, it may come in that shape of international co-operation in research. In my day job, I’m currently studying about SNOMED-CT. Google it: just Google it. This time next year, SNOMED-CT will be rolled out in the UK as the new standard in clinical coding in healthcare. SNOMED-CT is the international standard, and it will replace the UK read codes that have stood us in good stead for the past 25 years. The reason that SNOMED-CT is important is because it’s international. There are people across the world right now, developing content in the new language just so that specialists all over the world can share ideas and more importantly share data. I’m a data man, not a doctor, but I can see the potential for advancing research faster than anything that we’ve seen before. I sat an assessment yesterday and it was the scariest exam I’ve sat in ages: the content is foreign but the underlying data structures are based on everything that I’ve believed in these last twenty years. If you knew me during the eClipse days, then let me just say that SNOMED-CT is eClipse twenty years down the line: hell, they even have configured features for God’s sake! The money men may have binned all of my creative work back in 2008 but I’ll tell you this: what Ailsa and I designed back then was groundbreaking: people didn’t understand it at first but hell it was good. I look at SNOMED-CT today and I realise that our ideas were bang on the money. It’s a real shame that the people who held the purse strings didn’t invest in us. C’est la vie. Give it a few years, maybe five, and I think you’ll start to see the benefits of a joined up clinical coding system across the world: where research done in one country is readily available in others, for specialists to tap into, a year down the road when the next consolidated release of the software comes off the production line. I’m hugely optimistic about the future of documented research into neuroblastoma, almost as much as I’m dreading the advanced implementation course that’s coming up next, simply because the subject matter – clinical stuff – is way out of my comfort zone. But I need it in order to design the next generation of software tools to help find the kids who are at risk. LCFN remains a never ending journey of discovery.

Now before I finish this week, I want to go back to Gail’s blog. She told a story last night about Eileidh’s first mega radiotherapy session to zap the tumour in her jaw. If I may keep the story simple for us non-medics, the tale is one of magic water versus magic milk. Alternative procedures to the same end is the best way I can understand it. Well Gail, when you read this, please tell Ms Puddles that the LifeCycle Man says that magic water is best and that’s what he takes: every Friday night. I take it from a bottle with a blue star on the front. Apparently 4.7% of its content is what sends me to sleep when I’ve taken enough.

Magic water….

Eil’ drink to that.

Down Under

Eileidh Paterson touches people’s lives. For nigh on three years, she’s been doing it, albeit that her following really took off when Gail sought to raise a hundred grand to get Eileidh to America two years ago.

Her following is international, and she has a small, loyal band of supporters in South Australia, led admirably by JJ. I’ve known Julian for most of the time that I’ve been doing LCFN, and we even caught up briefly at the back end of last year when he was over for a couple of weeks. JJ hosts a weekly show on Radio KSA in Adelaide and for over two years, he’s been punting LCFN on the airwaves.

Anyway, JJ took it upon himself to reach out to Neuroblastoma Australia, the Strayan equivalent of Solving Kids Cancer (which is a joint venture between the USA and the UK). A couple of emails went backwards and forwards before this week, one headed my way: Would I be interested in going out to Australia to do a bike ride to help promote Neuroblastoma Australia?

I said yes.

For a few seconds, part of me thought “what can an old bloke fae Scotland do to help kids suffering in Australia. It’s difficult enough getting people onside in the UK: how can I possibly make a difference 10,000 miles away”?

Then I thought “see if I don’t go, nothing will happen: it will be status quo, no additional funds will flow into the coffers of the charity and no kids will benefit from the additional funding that might ensue”.

So I’m going.

I want to come back from Australia having made a difference.

I’m pencilling it in for early autumn in 2018. JJ has told me that I need to go in their early spring in order to avoid temperatures approaching 50C. Yer cannae bike far in those conditions. It’s a shame really because I really fancied going later in the year and body swerving the early part of our winter. C’est la vie.

Once I’d made my mind up (that took about three seconds flat), I got onto Messenger and noised up a couple of folk. Gabby, who’s currently looking after the flag up in Brizza (and who took it to Fiji a couple of weeks ago) was first up. “Come and stay at our place mate, in fact come while the (Commonwealth) Games are on. They’re only a forty minute drive from our place”. I thought about that plan, but the Games are on in April which is too early because our Joe will be building up to his Higher exams in April and the schedule doesn’t fit.

Next up, I got hold of Jimmy Harrington. Jimmy is the reason that there’s an Eileidh/LCFN followership in Australia. It was our friendship that blossomed towards the end of his Walk For Cancer (round the coastline of that vast continent) that brought everyone into play. Some of our LCFN followers are about five people removed from Jimbo but he remains the key man. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I’m gonna get Jimmy on a bike and we’re gonna do some stuff together. Right now we’re thinking of branding it as “The Kids’ Cancer Awareness Tour 2018”. What we’re actually gonna get up to is yet to be decided but if you know me, you just know it’s gonna be different and a whole load of fun. Brizza to Adders via Sydders and Melbers, anyone? Best crack open the tinnies for that one.

And finally I messaged Anna Meares. Now that Anna’s retired, I’m hoping that she might have a couple of days to spare that she can spend on the road with us. She’s still an ambassador for The Little Heroes Foundation in Australia, and I know from the conversations that we’ve had previously that she knows a thing or two about neuroblastoma. She also knows Jimmy because they held the LCFN flag together at the Adelaide Velodrome in December ’14. We have 18 months to plan this gig and pull off something special.

It’s gonna happen!

When I board that plane to come home (as opposed to riding home), I want Neuroblastoma Australia to have a bigger awareness footprint than it has just now. Forty cases a year in a population of 24 million makes neuroblastoma a rare disease, pretty much the way it is here with a hundred cases in a population approaching 60 million. Rare maybe, but devastating for certain.

So that’s the Oz adventure: something to work towards and enjoy when it comes around. And by the way, being an ex-Inverness Caley Thistle Highland Marcher, when you do these charity gigs, you pay your own way. The cost to Neuroblastoma Australia will be zero because that’s the way it’s always been. Awareness of what you’re promoting always comes at a personal cost.

Now talking of personal cost, I broke another LCFN bike this week. Actually, that’s not strictly true because it’s been knackered for a few weeks but I was just trying to wring the last few miles out of it before I put it in the pits. The reckoning there was that the shit n grit off the winter roads is what does the damage so the longer I could hold off, the more chance I had of keeping the repaired machine on the road before the next time.

The bottom bracket was completely away with the fairies. That’s the thing that sits in the big hole at the pedals. I hate to think how many million rotations it’s done but basically, it was seized into place and had to be smashed out to make way for a new one. I took the bike out for a post-pit spin this afternoon and I kid you not, the difference is about a mile per hour for the same effort: remarkable. The back axle was also rusted to b*****y so that was changed too. Between the two of them, they account for most of the crunching and grinding noises I’ve been putting up with since Christmas. But the front wheel bearings are also away but they didn’t get replaced because the rims on both wheels are on their last legs. I know from experience what happens when you push a rim beyond end of life because it happened to me two years ago on the way to work: the wheel exploded and bits of metal went flying everywhere. The damage is caused by erosion of the rim through braking on dirty wet roads. Unfortunately that’s a perennial pastime in darkest Ayrshire. For the record, those wheels that are on the bike just now are less than a year old: I’m getting some new ones for my birthday in a few weeks’ time. I kid you not: it probably costs the best part of five hundred quid a year to keep the LCFN bike on the road. Neuroblastoma awareness does not come cheap.

Performancewise, I’ve got my eye on the next milestone. Or perhaps that should say footstone for the number of feet climbed to date is now just two thousand short of 1.4 million. That’s an awful lot of Mount Everests (48 to be precise [from sea level, not base camp]), or 318 Ben Nevises from sea level down in Fort Bill. Actually, just think about that for a moment: forget the 28,500 miles and just concentrate on those Ben Nevises. That’s the Ben, all 4,406ft of it, seven times a month. Call it twice a week. Now whack on the 660 miles a month distance on top of that. Oh, and some wind and rain, well lots of it actually as this is the west of Scotland where it never stops (seemingly).

That’s LCFN. I tell you, I cannae wait till I get out to Oz and get to ride in 25C. I might not want to come home.

On the injury front, I’m starting to feel like Team Taylor is really paying dividends. I spent six months struggling summat terrible with my torn quad, and I really, really appreciate my friend Lynne Harrison recommending that I go and see a magic man in Glasgow, but I wanted to give Jane her chance first. She’s studying for a qualification in Sports Massage so from her perspective, what better than to have a broken husband to practice on. She is working miracles, I can tell you that. I’m still nowhere near 100% but 80% is allowing me to take on 20-25 miles and 1500ft of climbing every day supported by some heavy elbow pressure on the sore bits when she gets home from work. And as the pressure increases while I manage to stay off the ceiling, something is definitely working.

Now, before I go this week, I want to relate back to something that David Begg said to me on Twitter a couple of months ago. You’ll recognise the name because until he retired, David was the voice behind the best football commentary to be heard anywhere on these islands. And David has been following LCFN pretty much from the start. He asked me whether I was going round the world again. I’d like to answer that question thus…

See the 40,000th mile?

That’s gonna happen Down Under.

Ode To Joy (Puddles Remix)

We first met in the Curlers’ Rest

In the posh west end of toon

Subdued but ever smiling

Pained but never doon.

Cavorting on her papa’s back

Getting carried round the bar

Twas a journey I never realised

Would take us oh so far.

Three months passed

Then I learned

She needed money to board a plane

Send for Mouldy, Kev n Rob

We’re going psychalling again.

Fae Forres and the Mechies ground

To Sneckie and the game

Rattling her own wee bucket, lass

Collecting money all the same.

She got on that plane,

We nearly met

In Newark, New York City

But our flights missed out by a single day

Wee Eileidh sitting pretty.

To Michie, several times she went

We met on each return

Glasgow Airport, 7am

Coffee and hugs fae the bairn.

Scribbling on the landmark flag,

At Celtic Park and more

Her hand is on there multi times

Possibly three or four.

The Puddles brand was born that day

It hailed on the Celtic Way

Then the sun came out and Eileidh danced

In the puddles come what may.

Anna took the flag to Poland

And came back with a bear

Eileidh put it on her head

Grinning, despite being sair.

In Straya, a spirit was kindled

A passion burning fire

Puddles, a song so beautiful

To lift our spirits higher.

We last met up in Autumn

She was in fantastic form

Dixon appeared, her magic cat

Cuddles in the storm.

We know that these are dark, dark days

But nothing will deter

The love that we all feel for Puds

Praying for a miracle cure.

Go Gold, we say

Go Gold for she

The one who always smiles

To her I dedicate every day

Through the storms and all those miles.

We Shall Overcome

Three and a half years crammed into three and a half weeks. Everything that LCFN has endured since August 2013 microsquashed into a single month. This journey, nasty at times, exotic ever so occasionally, has it all. This is the sad but true tale of the back end of February, seemingly forever the month that promises the back of winter and duly delivers it.

Last weekend it was Auntie Ann’s wedding on a remote croft outside of Inverness. I had a choice: chuck the bike in the back of the car and bag a few alternative miles, or rest up seeing as I’d been fighting the lurgi. The LCFN me would have gone for the former 99 times out of a 100. That was the me that only missed one day in the first winter (13/14) on a clunky old mountain bike in and out of Glasgow. But wise me, the one that listened to Jane, listened to Angela, and listened to my body (this time) left the bike at home. I wasn’t totally loaded with the cold: I just felt like shit. One day I would get up and be all light headed, the next day I would wake with a thumping headache and not need the heating on all day, despite the temperature in the house being a temperate 15.6C.

The wedding was on Friday and the day after, we piled up to Jane’s mum and dad’s for the family debrief (as you do). I couldn’t bear being indoors in a warm house. Jane said later that she thought I was going to pass out. So did I. What I would have given to be out on the open road, nose running like a tap, instead of being stuck indoors thinking that my head was going to explode any minute. I even went home early from the pub on Saturday night while the ladies went out on the razzle. As much as it pains me to say it, Angela will be happy that I took a few days off…

Then it got to Monday when I fully intended to back out in the big time. I don’t wanna sound like a salesman at this point but if I go for it, and you take note, it might just save your life. Santa bought me a Kardia AliveCor instant analysis heart rate monitor. It does the basic stuff like heart rate but it also looks for atrial fibrillation. That’s one of the diseases I’m doing research in in my day job: finding punters at risk. I’m not currently one of those punters but when I took my reading on Monday morning (three times because I didn’t believe it the first and second times) my resting heart rate was 20% above normal. Where I come from, 20% is significant, as in leave the bike in the shed significant. Don’t mess with nature and most certainly don’t mess with a body that’s no’ well when yer my age.

So it fell to Tuesday to determine the likely outcome: wahaay, resting HR back to 50. That’s well in my get oot there laa’d zone so I was back on it. I celebrated by heading out over the Fenwick Muir, my nemesis from many a day gone by, and the weather did not disappoint. 1C and horizontal drizzle on a stiff northerly blast made for a challenging adventure: par for the course.

Y’know it never really improved all week. I think at one point the mercury touched 2.5C but this has been one nasty baltic week with plenty of the wet stuff. We had a visit from Storm Doris yesterday but she was a completely wet rag. A storm is something that I associate with a bucking bronco of a bike journey but yesterday was nothing of the sort. Yeah, the sleet was nasty but where was the wind? Doris by name, Dozey by nature. I blame the Met Office for stupid branding of the weather, just to make themselves feel important.

So, I’m down on miles (only 85 this week, the lowest in ages) but the good news is that all this intermittent inactivity looks (touch wood) like it might have allowed my knackered quad to turn the corner. A combination of Jane’s masterful massage and every other day ultrasound is working: it’s definitely working. So long as I keep the revs at 75% of max (car speak), I can get away with most of the inclines by standing on the pedals and not using big gears on the flat. Hell, this has been a long haul: August last year was when I did that injury and it’s taken until now to see any kind of significant improvement.

Now, to matters Puddles, of which I’ve seen many this week…

There was a photo that Gail put up on Eileidh’s Journey last night, that prompted one follower to enquire about her silver teeth. I wondered exactly the same thought when I saw it. See that thing I wrote about last week, and the week before: we’re all on the outside of this, and we don’t know. We want to know but we’re too afraid to ask. We’re all hiding behind the couch, hands over our eyes, in case we ask the wrong thing or say the wrong thing. But Alan Clarke called it and we should all be grateful for his enquiry: the chemo rotted Eileidh’s teeth and she had to get them capped. Read that again: the chemo rotted Eileidh’s teeth and she had to get them capped. She’s four. The chemo rotted her teeth. So that begs the question: what else is the chemo doing, just to preserve her ever smiling existence with us?

I said last week that Eileidh is an international star. Check this: this is a comment left on Gail’s update from last night:

“Eileidh, you look like the bravest little girl in the world to me. I live in Italy, a place that, just in case you didn’t know, looks like a boot. It’s a beautiful place and it’s surrounded by the sea side. Well, I’m quite distant from where you are now but I’m still quite sure you are getting all the love I’m sending you. I check to see how you are doing everyday. A big bacio from Italy” 🇮🇹

Now, not only is this a gorgeous testament to Eileidh’s battling spirit, it’s a significant reference to Jenny who stays over there. The comment was left on Gail’s blog by Jenny’s daughter. And yesterday, 120 Euro arrived from Italy for EJ/LCFN wristband donations. Like I said, Eileidh has gone international. Have you got yours yet?

Talking of LCFN international, the flag is in Fiji. Get that… the LCFN flag is in Fiji!!!!!

On tour.

But there are two flags: the other one’s guess where… in Italy.

On tour.

LCFN on tour is about making people aware of the disease. Awareness might just save a child’s life one day.

Neuroblastoma is a swine of a disease. As I said last week, it’s the Japanese Knotweed of childhood cancers. Eileidh is now fighting it for the third time and I don’t know of any kids who’ve fought it three times and won. But this is Eileidh. If there was a gold medal for smiling your way through this disease, she would win it. So, incidentally, would a load of other kids. If you’re new to LCFN, a hundred kids a year are diagnosed in the UK: half of them don’t make it. Eileidh has now been diagnosed three times so calculate the odds for yourself: they are not good.

And finally this week, I want to give a big shout out to two of my LCFN friends who I’ve become close to during this journey: Wullie and Tommy. Both have lost their mothers in the last couple of weeks. For both of them, it’s raw: they are the guys that they are today because of their ma’s. Guys, I’m thinking of you tonight: the way you live your life, supporting charity wherever it exists, speaks volumes about your upbringing. Your mothers did you proud. I look at Gail and I think what a fantastic mother she is under the most difficult of circumstances. Life is really, really hard at times.

But we shall overcome.

After The Lord Mayor’s Show

Last Saturday, in case I didn’t already know it, I realised that Eileidh Paterson is an international star. Actually she’s more than that: she’s an international superstar. She opens minds and turns heads. She catches people’s attention, and then some.

Even before last weekend, I had Eileidh marked on my card as the bravest four year old girl in Scotland: and by the end of it, I had it confirmed in numbers.

I like numbers: they make my world go round (as well as my wheels).

Check these: these are the number of hits on the LFCN blog (the one that you’re reading right now) for last week:

Monday:                              3

Tuesday:                              8

Wednesday:                      3

Thursday:                            3

Friday:                  266

Saturday:                             1656

Sunday:                102

There’s a reason for that: Eileidh Paterson.

Let’s grab a bit of perspective: in 2014, the first full year of the LCFN blog, it had 3003 hits. In 2015, it grew organically to 3439. I well remember being happy with that: that was the year I got fully engaged with Eileidh’s Journey and paid more than a passing interest in her progress as opposed to being a general fundraiser for the umbrella Solving Kids Cancer. It was also the year that Mouldy, Kev, Robert et moi cycled from Forres to Glasgow via Inverness to try and help Eileidh get the fiunds she needed to get to Michigan to get on the DFMO trial. 2016 was another organic year and the numbers rose to 4260. It felt like it was worth carrying on because people were apparently continuing to follow the adventure. It was never easy.

But that merely brings us to last weekend: 2024 hits in three days.

There’s a reason for that: Eileidh Paterson.

From memory, the most hits I’d ever had in a day was pushing 250 just after Oscar gained his angel wings in May 2014. It was the same week that Eileidh was initially diagnosed. Those 266 last Friday came in 45 minutes: I know that because I didn’t publish The Bucket List until just after eleven. I’d been playing catch up with my work and the blog was late out of the blocks.

By Saturday morning, I was starting to worry that LCFN was being subjected to a denial of service attack. LCFN just doesn’t get this kind of attention.

But there’s a reason for that: Eileidh Paterson.

Six weeks into 2017, I feel like tonight’s blog is the like the event after the Lord Mayor’s Show. Pick any one hit wonder from your youth and ask why they were never heard of again: because sometimes you just get lucky and hit the mark when it’s your time. Then it never happens again. That’s basically how I’ve felt all of this week. I can’t do Eileidh any more justice than to say that she is inspiring people all over the world right now, with her fight, with her strength to fight, with her impishness, with her charisma, with the force of her character, and overwhelmingly with her smile.

I had to question a few people to get a grip on what was happening last weekend. Big Wullie told me that a denial of service attack would have seen thousands of hits per minute so it clearly wasn’t that. So finally, I started to believe that maybe, just maybe, it was real people latching on to my interpretation of Eileidh’s situation.

I have this vision of thousands of people hanging onto Gail’s next post: like EJ’s a blockbuster heartbreaking rollercoaster of a soap, and we all crave the next episode, hoping that it’ll be a happy one. That was the perspective that I had in mind when I penned The Bucket List. We all know that this isn’t a happy journey right now, and that it might not have the outcome that we want. But Gail has this magical knack of being able to divorce herself from the difficulty of the situation, no matter what hour of the day or night, and tell it like it is, in full gory detail. Gail, when this is all over, no matter what the outcome, there’s a hobbyist career for you in literature. Your work is outstanding.

And there’s a reason for that: Eileidh Paterson.

I’m writing this particular episode, number 178 in the series, in a rented house in Inverness. Tomorrow, my sister in law Ann is marrying her former submariner sweetheart out in a remote country location. It will be idyllic: the Highlands in February can provide the most majestic of backdrops. Who mentioned snow: snow chance!

And by the way, I didn’t bring the bike.

On the back of that, I’d hoped to nip over to Forres on Saturday and see the Princess: I haven’t seen her since October and she’ll have grown so much since then.

But I have the lurgi. I’ve had the lurgi for the past ten days, and you know where I reckon I got it… the doctor’s waiting room. I didn’t go with the cold but forty minutes spent in the company of spluttering weans at 80F certainly changed that. Went in with one complaint, came out with another. So I cannae go anywhere near Eileidh’s gaff while I’m coughing like a coughing thing. It’s even made me re-evaluate my miles this last week. I keep reading that if you don’t look after number one, then how the hell are you gonna look after anyone else? There was one night in the week when Jane had already gone to bed and I just couldn’t stop sneezing and coughing. She had proper work to get up for the next day, I didn’t (well not in the commuting sense anyway) so I just sat up until it finally passed. Going out to bag another two hours in the Ayrshire Alps in a biting easterly wind doesn’t sit well alongside infirmity. So I took a second day off (that’s two in three years) in the knowledge that it’s better to lose fifty miles just now than five hundred somewhere down the line. I’ve finally learned that sometimes, you just have to take a timeout and recover….

I think also, I’m much more aware, now that I don’t work for someone, there’s no protection if I get ill. If I’m not working, I don’t get paid. Sick days? What are they? Holidays? I don’t get any. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely do not chase pound signs. But if I only manage twenty hours in a week, because I was floored by the lurgi, then that’s all I’ll get paid for. So that old saying about looking after number one is absolutely bang on.

And for the past six months, ever since I chased the King Of The Mountains title on the hill out of Kilmaurs if I’m honest (two days in a row), I’ve been carrying a torn quad in my right leg. That’s the leg I drive off on. Not only have I never taken off on my left leg, I’m 99% sure I couldn’t do it. But Jane has been working on that leg for the past few weeks: she’s training to become a sports massage therapist and in me, she has a ready made guinea pig. I can honestly say that whatever magic she’s weaving in those arms and in those hands, it’s working. Despite me giving up a couple of days to the cough this week, the on days have been full on, as in 2000ft of climbing on. And the quad has coped: just. As a consequence, despite that fact that I’m still taking the climbs ever so gingerly, I am actually starting to think that a couple of months down the road from now, I’ll be able to put the hammer down again.

Another thing I’m coming to terms with is my impending retirement, albeit that my pension is still another thirteen months away. I love my working from home job but I also love being out on my bike. Getting started on the day job at half eight is no use when you’ve no commuting to do so I’ve told myself that once the nice weather kicks in, I’m gonna go back to the old days, set the alarm for 6am, bang in a seven hour shift then knock off at lunchtime: the plan is that every afternoon will be an LCFN adventure this coming summer. If I’m short of a few work deadlines and/or hours by the end of the week, I’ll make it up at the weekend. There’s no such thing as time and a half in my job: you are what you deliver because you want to, because you take a pride in what you do. It’s the same with the bike miles and the blog if I’m being honest. Never ever give less than a hundred per cent because the only person you’re cheating is yourself, and you have to live with that. I can only live with my best.

Eileidh’s in recovery between blocks of chemo. I’m in recovery between blocks of coughing and sneezing. But we both know we’re going back for more: it’s what we do. We haven’t come this far to not finish the job in the way that nature intended. We just don’t know what that outcome is or when it will be.

In the meantime, I’ll just sit down with a beer tonight, soothe my throat and hope that this story doesn’t end up as the event after the Lord Mayor’s Show.