Pancreatic cancer is the deadliest and yet one of the least known of all cancers. It's the seventh most common cancer in the UK, and yet the five year survival rate has not changed for half a century - still a horrifying 3%.
My stepdad Agustin was one of the other 97%. He was a keen traveller and cyclist who was full of enthusiasm, ideas and energy even in his seventies. In December 2008, not long after completing a long-distance walk across Europe from the Adriatic to the Baltic, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Just days before he went into hospital for surgery to remove the cancer, in January this year, he was still telling his friends about his latest travel plan - a mammoth cycle ride across Europe, linking the sources of all of Europe's major rivers, from the Tajo in Spain to the Urals in Russia.
Agustin never got to do his trip, as the cancer turned out to be inoperable and he died a month later - just two months after he was diagnosed. So I am planning to do the ride in his memory, and to raise money for and awareness of pancreatic cancer.
I'll have to do it in stages, as the whole thing will take many months! I hope to complete the first 2000km stage, from the Tajo to the source of the Po in the Italian Alps, in Aug-Sept 2009. Please sponsor me, and maybe we can make that 3% a little bigger!
3rd September 2009 update.
I (Fiona) heard from Cathy last night as she had reached Philippe's parents house in Les Cevennes in France. She had cycled 1100km in 9 days so was feeling quite pleased with herself. She had really enjoyed the experience and said the scenery was magnificent, especially cycling through the Pyrenees. Sadly, it sounds like a trip Agustin would have really enjoyed. Cathy had managed to camp wild every night except one so was doing the trip in true Agustin style. Philippe will be joining her for the remainder of the journey.
7th September - email update from Cathy
At long last we have found internet! In Crest, in the foothills of the Alps ( sort of between Valence and Grenoble). From here we can see the Alps proper, all jagged in the distance, looking impressive but a bit daunting!
I had a very nice couple of days relaxing at Philippes parents in the Cevennes and now we are continuing to Italy. We cycled from the Cevennes to Vals les bains, near Aubenas, and stayed there two nights so we could do a loop sans bagages to Mont Gerbier de Jonc. It was a lovely ride on the beautiful back roads of the Ardeche mountains! Today we took a very wiggly route along pretty small roads to Montelimar (home of nougat) and over the hills to Crest. Now we plan to take flattest route we can find through the Alps, and Philippe will probably get the train back from Briancon. Hope I can do something similar for Monte Viso, ie find somewhere nearby to leave baggage, as its over 2200m high!
12th September 2009
Cathy made it into Italy yesterday, crossing Col de Montgenevre (1854m high) in the morning and made it to the source of the Po at 2200m this afternoon. She finished with a mammoth climb in the rain, 1600m of climbing in 18km. Stunning scenery. Hopefully time for a short rest (ha!) before she returns home, mission (part 1) accomplished!
Thanks to all for the kind words and generous donations.
Update August 2010 - the second leg is about to begin. This stage is probably the most mountainous of the whole trip, with many passes over 2000m!
Starting in Turin, I will pedal north into Switzerland to join the source of the Rhine at Disentis. Then through the Swiss Alps, passing by the Rhone glacier where the Rhone starts its journey to the sea. Aftter than it's into Germany where we will meet the source of the Danube at Donaueschingen in Baden-Wuerttemberg. From there we will follow the Danube bike route across southern Germany to Passau on the German-Czech border, and then through the Czech Republic to Prague.
September 2010 - we actually made it further than we expected, and also reached the source of the Elbe (Labe) high up in the mountains of the Czech-Polish border!
Update June 2011: The third leg has just been completed! It took us from the Czech Republic to Roumania, via Slovakia, Poland and the Ukraine.
On the way we passed by the source of the Oder, in the forests of the Czech Republic not far from Olomouc; the source of the Wisla (Vistula) at Barania Gora in the Carpathian mountains of Poland; and the source of the Dniester in the Transcarpathians of Ukraine.
It was probably the least mountainous of all the stages, but none the easier for that, as we had to contend with headwinds and difficult road conditions, especially in Ukraine!
Unfortunately the JustGiving site won't let me put up any more photos, which is a shame, as we have encountered much beautiful scenery along the way...