We recently had the pleasure of meeting Adam, the incredible man behind The Bike Network, when he passed through G!RO for a Flat White on a tour of many of Londons favourite riding spots. Adam shared his poignant story (which you can read below) and how that morphed into the idea behind The Bike Network, his now fully registered charity, supporting those with cancer or recovering from cancer... Using the sport of cycling to aid the treatment and recovery as part of healthy lifestyle that helps to improve both the physical and mental toll of this horrible illness. After meeting Adam, we were keen to help and get involved how we could! So we're proud to now be supporting these guys and accepting donations as part of their nationwide network of stores. Please read Adam's story below, check out the incredible work the Bike Network are doing and help them by donating kit, parts and even cash so they can keep doing this crucial work. Here at G!RO, we will be accepting any kit or parts you can spare to them (alongside our collection for Masaka Cycling Club; instructions on how can be found at the end of this blog) and we'd love it if you head to www.
It's 2017 and life is good. I'm 27 years old, married, own our own home and my wife Jamie has recently given birth to our son Charlie, then come the words you have cancer. Stage 3 bowel cancer to be precise, something you wouldn't expect a 27 year old to be plagued with. So begins the journey which I have now come to realise reshaped my life for the better. At the point of diagnosis the consultants estimated the tumour to be around 7cm and even with open surgery it would prove difficult completely remove due to its location deep within my pelvis. The plan was to hit it hard with chemotherapy before an intensive course of radio-chemotherapy and finally the major operation to save my life.
I quickly came to realise that despite all the doctors efforts in meticulous planning cancer will always throw a curve ball. The first of which came after the second chemotherapy infusion and my wife finding me collapsed on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night after going to use the toilet. The doctors found that chemotherapy was actually having an adverse effect on the tumour and it grown to 9cm from the initial 7cm. The plug was pulled on chemo and I was kept in for an emergency operation to create a colostomy ahead of my next treatment path. I was home recovering within 3 days of the operation and realised I had to do everything I could to help fight this. Reducing my weight and improving my fitness would make for a safer operation and quicker recovery so I bought a used B-Twin road bike off eBay for £100 and my love of cycling began. Little did I know this bike would change my life and that of so many more people throughout the UK.
Fully recovered from my colostomy operation and beginning to smash some miles on the bike radio-chemotherapy began. This meant daily trips to the hospital everyday for 25 days and chemotherapy tablets to take whilst at home morning and night. Same time, same place, same room, same people, it started to feel a little like groundhog day but those daily laser blasts were working! I was having more blood tests than Lance Armstrong but the numbers were returning to normal and progress was better than the consultants expected. They made the decision to add an additional 3 days of treatment as the results were so good. The big one! So the big day finally arrived! After the best part of 7 months worth of treatment part of my dodgy bowel is finally going to be removed. The surgeon explained that the scans I had shown the radiotherapy had worked well but until he was able to physically see the area he wouldn’t know whether he could operate using keyhole surgery or if it would involve and open procedure which would mean 3-6 months of recovery. I woke up in recovery rather groggy and the first thing I did was lift the covers to look at my stomach. The relief I felt I can’t explain when the scar I saw was only 3-4 inches long. I then asked the nurse who was sat with me how long I was out for, she said the operation took just over 7 hours! The surgeon came to see me and explained he started the operation by putting a camera inside my belly but couldn’t see a tumour! He tried 2 different angles but still couldn’t see anything so he proceeded with keyhole surgery and removed the affected part of bowel, lymph nodes and some of my bladder as the tumour had previously had been in contact with it at an earlier stage of treatment. The parts he removed would then be sent to histology for analysis and I would get the results in around 2 weeks. It was around 8 days before I was allowed to continue my recovery at home. After several weeks I finally got the letter to meet with my oncologist and discuss the results of surgery and what treatment I would still require. Turns out the radio-chemotherapy completed cooked the tumour and everything which was removed during the operation and tested in the lab showed no signs of active cancer. I had gone from Stage 3 and the possibility of an impossible surgery to no evidence of disease and no further treatment required other than routine check ups!
Life after cancer:
Cycling helped me massively during treatment as well as the physical benefits during rehabilitation from the operation. What I didn't realise cycling would help with is managing my mental health after cancer. In the beginning I suffered with awful medical anxiety. Every cough, lump or pain I instantly thought it was back. It has taken a lot of time (and miles) but when those thoughts come, I jump on my bike and ride it out. Experience the world around me, travel roads I haven't used and tell myself I'm OK, I beat it.
The Bike Network:
Fast forward to lockdown 1, March/April 2020. Completely at a loss, stuck at home and I thought I would refurbish some bikes and give them to people affected by cancer who are in the same position as I was back in 2017. Things started to come together pretty quick and as word spread I had people donating more bikes to refurbish and more people applying for them. The Bike Network was born! We became an official charity in November 2020 and since delivering our first bike last year we are now approaching 200 bikes delivered throughout the UK. We don't receive any financial support from the government and everything we do is funded by fundraisers, the sale of donated cycling kit and parts or grants from other charities who believe in what we do.
We are the only charity in the UK who supply the physical equipment needed for people affected by cancer to rehabilitate during and after treatment.
What our applicants say:
"Here is me and my son on my bike which you sent to me. We've had the most amazing morning cycling everywhere. Thank you again, I feel like I can do activities with my boys again and it's made me the happiest mum ever".
“Had a great experience dealing with Adam who was quick to respond to queries with nothing being too much trouble. The bike that was sourced and prepared is excellent and will help hugely with fitness and rehabilitation. Keep up the good work!"
HOW TO DONATE HERE AT G!RO:
Cancer will sadly touch the lives of so many of us and we think being able to mobilise our community and use our beloved sport to have a positive impact on those suffering and their loved ones, is an amazing opportunity presented to us by Adam and his team! Hearing the impact it's had on Adam's life and so many of the people he's helped out since is incredible! So if you'd like to help Adam, and the Bike Network out, we are now accepting donations here at G!RO. Just drop off any old, spare kit, that still has some miles left in it; or equipment and parts that could go towards refurbishing a bike; or even an old bike that could go to a great home. Bag it up and label it for "The Bike Network" and drop it in with our team.. Alternatively, if you have some bigger items, arrange a good time to drop them off with us via firstname.lastname@example.org.