Mark Harrop

Mark's fundraiser for Myeloma UK: A virtual 500km London – Paris charity ride whilst in hospital recovering from stem cell transplant

Fundraising for Myeloma UK
raised of £5,000 target
by 157 supporters
Riding a 500km virtual London-Paris challenge whilst in hospital recovering from stem cell transplant, 18 September 2023
Myeloma UK

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We provide support and fund vital research to make myeloma history


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I was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer – multiple myeloma – in March 2023.

The week before I go into hospital for my stem cell transplant, it’s the annual Myeloma UK London-Paris bike ride. I can’t be there in person, but what if I could cover the 500km distance as a virtual ride whilst I am in the isolation unit recovering from the transplant? So that’s what I am going to do.


I’m 61 years old, married with two fantastic grown-up kids and I work in consultancy. I’ve been passionate about bikes since I was a kid. My garage is stuffed with bicycles of all shapes and sizes. I have ridden everything from the mountain bike trails of Moab to the Grand Tour climbs of Europe.

Even before Christmas 2022, I knew all was not well. My regular rides were inexplicably slower and taking longer. And when I finally got home, I was completely wiped out. I put it down to the usual Winter malaise; cold and wet weather, heavy steel bike, layers of winter clothing - and too many mince pies. And I was constantly ill. Another bout of Covid in March was the final trigger I needed to seek medical advice. I thought I probably had Long Covid, but as it turned out, I didn’t.

I started chemotherapy at the beginning of May, which involved weekly hospital visits and the consumption of around 1,180 tablets over a four-month period. But I kept riding my bike. The usual advice for myeloma patients is to avoid cycling; the disease thins the bones, and the treatment thins the blood and can make you dizzy; not an ideal combination for the cut and thrust of UK roads. But my bike keeps me sane. I have ridden nearly 3,500km since being diagnosed, 2,800 of which were during the chemotherapy itself. Some days I just couldn’t turn a pedal. My Wattbike Atom indoor trainer gave me the option of stepping off on bad days and was a real godsend. I even bought an e-bike to keep me riding when any incline felt like a mountain. I rode 500km on that bike, but when I felt well enough the e-bike went on a hook in the garage and that’s where it will stay if I have my way.

By the time you read this I will have had my stem cells harvested in preparation for the transplant itself, which is scheduled for 18th September. The transplant process completely wipes out your immune system, so I will be in the isolation unit until I’ve started to recover, and things are at least stable – probably three long weeks. I’m not very good at sitting still. I don’t really like watching TV. I have a lot of books to get through and a very large Vostok rocket model to build (and no, I don’t know how I will get that home on the tube either). The doctors want me to keep fit – and I would like to ride when I can, but there is only primitive exercise bike in the isolation unit. So, I came up with a plan.

The week before I go into hospital it’s the annual Myeloma UK London-Paris bike ride. I can’t be there in person, but what if I could cover the 500km distance as a virtual ride whilst recovering from the transplant? I keep fit and raise some money for a good cause.

Myeloma UK have been hugely supportive since the day I informed them of my plan. But to make the plan a reality, I needed three things to happen; I needed the agreement of the medical team (I don’t want to compromise my recovery in any way), I would need access to a really good indoor training bike, and critically, permission from the London Clinic (where the transplant and isolation will happen).

My consultant Mike Potter has been very positive about my ongoing cycling antics and believes I am capable of the 500km distance without impacting my recovery.

When I thought about the indoor training bike, I already knew what I wanted. I’ve had my own Wattbike Atom at home for the last five years. It really is a fantastic piece of kit and has seen me through tens of thousands of glitch-free kilometres and one pandemic. Through the magic of LinkedIn, I contacted Wattbike CFO Peter Lay who was immediately supportive and got the wider Wattbike team involved. Wattbike have been superb and will make a latest model Atom available for me to use, as well as handling the logistics of getting the bike to and from the hospital.

The London Clinic have also been great. The nursing team have seen me through the four months of induction chemo with professionalism and kindness. As well as approving the Wattbike delivery and set up in the isolation unit, the nursing and administrative team have been a source of advice and practical assistance to me. Thanks in particular to Sara and Jeorge (I owe you many pastel de nata !).

I also want to thank my employer Arcadis for their ongoing support and understanding. Continuing to work through my treatment has kept things as normal as possible and provided a welcome distraction. I’ve had some lovely calls from colleagues and clients as word has spread, so thank-you all.

Last but not least my love and appreciation goes out to my family and friends; your support means the world and is a massive component of the positive approach that I know will get us all through this in one piece. Onwards!

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About the charity

Myeloma UK

Verified by JustGiving

RCN SC026116
Myeloma UK is the only organisation in the UK dealing exclusively with myeloma. We provide information and support to patients and their families and help myeloma patients live longer, with a better quality of life by accelerating the discovery, development of and access to new treatments.

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