Imagine being diagnosed with cancer of the retina when you are eight months old. It was not due to your lifestyle. You had the bad luck of a rogue genetic mutation. Radiotherapy treated the tumour in your right eye and gave you hope for a full life but left you largely blind in your right eye. In your first term at university you had splitting headaches. Eventually a benign tumour was found in the membrane between your brain and the orbit of your right eye. The radiotherapy you had a as baby was the probable cause. Its removal required seven hours of brain surgery. Over five months you struggled your way back onto your course. You graduated and begin a post-graduate medical degree. In your first term as a medical student the tumour returned. After five hours of surgery and a month's recovery, you managed to continue your course. Three and half years later you completed your degree. As a junior doctor you began to train in paediatric oncology, because you wanted to help children, who like you, have been afflicted with cancer. When the tumour returned for the third time, you realised your fight is not yet over. You will be a cancer specialist, who lives with the personal consequences of cancer. This is my eldest daughter's story.
For me her story began with a phone call:
“We have found a tumour in your daughter's eye.”
“Is it malignant?”
“Very. You will also need genetic counselling.”
This was devastating news for first time parents. Eighteen months later my father developed lung cancer. The disease turned him grey and withered him beyond his years. In the end his pain was stronger than the morphine he took to curb it. In total agony he curled up, hugged himself and bit his hand to wait out his death, which came. He never celebrated his 65th birthday. He never saw his granddaughter grow up. He never stood proudly beside her when she graduated from his college. The worst part is that I know my family's story is neither unique nor the most devastating.
Last year I decided to cycle-camp across America as a personal challenge and an opportunity to enjoy that amazing country, while it unfolds from the slow moving seat of my bicycle. My journey will begin on Virginia's Atlantic shore in May and end in August by the waters of the Pacific Ocean in Oregon. I will cycle more than 4,200 miles and will climb from sea level to 11,200 feet in the Rockies before returning to sea level. Then I thought that I should do something – just a little something – to help the fight against cancer. The trip is at my expense but the generosity is yours. Every penny you kindly donate will go to Cancer Research UK to tackle this terrible disease that ravages lives and families again and again. I hope we can make a small difference for them.
Then irony struck. A stage 2 melanoma was found on my lower back. I have delayed the start of my ride to mid May in order for a wider excision to be cut around the malignant mole. The motivation to raise money for cancer research has become even mire central to our family. I will be riding for cancer while living with cancer.
You can follow my journey at: