This is arguably the most important week in the calendar year of kids fighting cancer: the first week in September. Can there be anyone in the world, who’s on Social Media, who doesn’t know that this is the start of Children’s Cancer Awareness Month?
I know that there are other campaigns throughout the year and calendar months get coloured accordingly. But September is different, because it’s branded to remember and support the fight of kids who haven’t yet had, and in many cases won’t get to grow up to be adults.
Cancer kills 500 kids a year in the UK, and a third of them are lost to neuroblastoma. Even for the children that make it, life has changed forever. The best that a family can hope for is survival and the magic phrase “No Evidence of Disease” or NED for short. NED means that you have lived to fight another day: that you’ve won the latest battle but for many, the battle is just symptomatic of the war.
Childhood cancer in the UK receives less than 4% of the total research budget. The very people who are the future of the nation, who for all we know could grow up to be its brightest lights, are an afterthought in corporate funding. In business speak, rare equals don’t care. That, unfortunately, is the harsh reality, which is sadly ironic because Cancer Research like to use images of kids in their advertising in order to attract funding from the likes of you and I. For that reason, and that reason alone, you should target your donations wisely if children are a high priority to you, and don’t just go with the flow as the leading brands would want you do do.
Anyway, enough of having a go at the corporate face of fundraising, let’s get stuck into some good news…
You’ll recall that last week, I spilled the beans on a few big hitters signing up for the LCFN Million Mile Challenge on Strava. Well in the week that finished last Sunday (we operate a Monday to Sunday cycle on this gig) the team banged in over 3,000 miles. We’ve got 34 cyclists signed up, of which 30 or so are currently active and doing stuff. Top of that pile, and we are so privileged to have him onboard, is Steve Abraham. Steve is the number one endurance cyclist in the UK and today started out on an epic adventure to try and break the world record for the most miles ridden in 30 consecutive days. That record currently stands at 6866 miles if my memory serves me right. Today was day one and the big man set off from his home in Milton Keynes, rode out to Norfolk, gave Norwich a wee wave then legged it home again: 17 hours in the saddle at an average speed of 17.4mph brought home an incredible 301 miles. We are so lucky to have Steve in our team and remember this: he’s doing it in September… Steve Abraham is going for gold. I will feature his progress every day on the LCFN Facebook page.
A little bit of me hopes, when Steve has finished his epic ride, that he will tell the waiting media that it was a gorgeous twist of fate that allowed him to take on this challenge during Children’s Cancer Awareness Month. There can be no greater inspiration for these kids than a guy pushing himself to the very limits, and then some more. It’s kind of in keeping with what we’ve come to witness time and again in the children themselves.
Ironically, Steve had previously set out to break the record for the most miles ridden in twelve months, and was three months into that attempt, when in March 2015, he was cleaned out by a motor bike and broke his ankle. That was the end of that attempt.
Steve’s misfortune was mirrored three weeks ago when another of our team, Zuzanna Ciszewska, was hit by a car two weeks into her own attempt on the women’s twelve month world record. Suzie’s bike was written off in the accident and she suffered significant facial injuries. Tomorrow, she gets back on a bike for the first time since that fateful day, on a machine loaned out to her by Evans Cycles, and she’s easing herself back into the saddle by taking on the 170 mile Manchester to London ride with one of her friends. Suzie, yer some girl, and I’ll be thinking about you this weekend.
My own miles just plod along these days. I’m no longer in the big league with these guys, although I could probably have given them a run for their money a year ago. Thirty six 200 mile weeks in a row, stretching out from May 2015 had me in the best condition of my life, but these days, since I completed the 25,000 miles that I initially set out to do, I’ve eased right back and now I’m only doing 20 to 25 a day. The problem with living round here and riding a bike is the wind and the hills. For those that aren’t accustomed to these parts, Ayrshire is a very undulating county, and an extremely windy one as well. There isn’t a massive 215 turbine windfarm ten miles up the road for nothing.
Talking of the wind, the weather has definitely taken on an altogether more autumnal feel this past week. Although the temperature has been mid teens and relatively pleasant out of the wind, when you’re out there on the open road and fighting it, it has a real cutting edge to it. On top of that, the hernia that I had two years ago really does not like these conditions and it’s all I can do to find the flattest, least arduous route out into the wind before raising the proverbial mainsail for the ride home. For grumbling appendix, read grumbling hernia. I’m guessing that the repair itself is still sound but the scar on top of it is on fire. Uncomfortable is the word.
We had our friends Paul and Janice Gablonski staying with us again at the start of the week on a one night stopover en route to Manchester airport. At the time of writing this, the Gabbis will be back at the Gabba, and I mention this because they’ve taken the Aussie LCFN flag back with them. The Aussie flag (or the Vanessa flag as it’s otherwise known) has a stack of signatures on it, just like its Brit counterpart, but every one of them is an Aussie, or someone living in Australia. So it’s good that the flag has gone back and now we can look forward to seeing the photos coming in from all around Queensland.
Did I forget to mention that awareness is king?
While I’m on the subject of Australia, I took a call from JJ in the middle of the week and he’s been pushing the LCFN story to Neuroblastoma Australia. I like the way this is going, not least because at the very time that we are trying to raise awareness of neuroblastoma through the million mile challenge, Straya is just coming into Spring, and I have a hunch that Neuroblastoma Australia might just be able to jump on this bandwagon, steer it in their direction, and raise a whole wad of sponsorship on the back of it.
Did I not just say that awareness is king? Anna Meares is the undisputed Queen of Australian sport and she’s a cyclist. She’s also an ambassador for the Little Heroes Children’s Cancer Foundation. Is this an LCFN opportunity or what?
I cannot believe where this adventure is right now compared to where it was three years ago. Back then it was just me, and soon to be Wullie Broon fighting in my corner. Now we’ve got a whole crew over in Adelaide, some more up in Brisbane, a sprinkling in Melbourne and Sydney, and even more in Poland. We’ve got cyclists in Turkey and Italy, we’ve got supporters in the USA and Canada (I’ve even seen a photo of an LCFN/EJ wristband in Philadelpia on Facebook) and others in Romania and Sri Lanka.
See that awareness thing….
But finally this week, I want to end on a promotional note. There’s been a lot of debate on Social Media this past week about folk on Facebook following a “Challenge Accepted” chain letter by posting a grey selfie to raise cancer awareness. Every man and his dog on Facebook knows about cancer: so this is probably what it seems, a chain letter to harvest personal information. Call me cynical but there are three types of people in the world: those that do, those that watch, and those that go “WTF happened there?” I’m of the former breed, and knowing that this is Go Gold month, and knowing that I will be working down in Liverpool, out of my comfort zone, in a couple of weeks, I’ve had my finger nails done: sparkling old gold. I’m expecting very strange looks when I’m working on the train, and even more strange questioning while I’m circulating down there. But you know what: my gold nails tell a story, a story of symptoms: sore legs, a swollen tummy, a fever, loss of appetite, a sore head: the list is endless. So when people quiz me about my nails, I will tell them, from the bottom of my heart, why I did it.
It’s an awareness thing…