The charity cycle diary: memories of biking to help beat cancer

2 Apr

by Hannah Blythyn

In February I got on my bike to fight women’s cancers and joined nearly ninety other women of all ages and biking abilities to cycle 400km across Kenya in aid of three women’s cancer charities – Ovarian Cancer Action, Breast Cancer Care and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. I was part of the fifth group of women to take up the challenge, which also gave some of the money raised to the Faraja Project – a cancer centre in Nairobi.

When people learned about what I was planning to do there was a general assumption that I must have already been a committed and accomplished cyclist. I wasn’t. In fact, I didn’t even have a bike to my name when I initially signed up for the feat. The organisers briefed us that it was three challenges rolled into one – the training, the fundraising then the epic event in itself. They weren’t wrong, but eighteen months after signing up with money raised tallying up and at the fittest I’d been in decades I was boarding a flight to Nairobi ready to embark on the challenge of a lifetime.

So how was it? In one word – amazing – but I also discovered the true meaning of the word challenge.  I have never experienced hills quite like it (growing up in north Wales that is really saying something) – constant undulations on most days and a 20km uphill climb on another – and combined with heat, humidity and the altitude everyone’s fitness and perseverance was tested to the limit.

Yet persevere we did and were rewarded with some wonderful experiences – meeting local children who cheered us along the way, witnessing a diverse and beautiful landscape, from the magnificent Rift Valley to coffee plantations and local villages and crossing the equator six times.

We did it!

The challenge was a total of 400km over five days beginning in Nyeri in the shadow of Mount Kenya, traveling westwards to finish at the shore of Lake Victoria. To come round a corner and catch a first glimpse of the Lake Victoria finish line was breathtaking, and finish with a flourish we did – ninety odd women taking up a dual carriageway with balloons attached to our cycle helmets.

During the course of the week if ever it got too tough we only had to think of the reasons why we were doing the challenge. Every woman there had her own reason for taking part – sometimes heart breaking but always heart warming.

Every year 46,000 women and men will receive the devastating news that they have breast cancer. Nearly three women die every day in the UK from cervical cancer with eight being diagnosed and facing an uncertain future. After breast cancer, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women aged 35 and under. Ovarian cancer is the biggest gynecological killer of women in the UK and twelve women die each day from the disease in the UK.

The hope and belief is if women can overcome a challenge like cycle Kenya then together we can overcome cancer.

Hannah Blythyn

Hannah has managed to raise nearly £5000 to date for the charities and the whole challenge has now raised upwards of £5 million.

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