Riding the Pamir Highway – The Impossible Dream
After all the bad news concerning my recent accident, I think a more positive blog post is required.
I’ve been told by friends and strangers that I’m an inspiration. If this is true then I’ve achieved at least one of my goals, which is to show others there is life and even adventure after being told you have cancer.
I’m no hero, but let me tell you the story of a Yorkshire lass (which explains her grit and determination) who was, and who became the single biggest influence and inspiration to me. Her name is Jane Tomlinson. Told she had six months to live, Jane had two choices: give up, or grab every moment and make the most of any time granted to her. She went on to raise £2 million for cancer charities, gained an OBE, became an inspiration to millions – and me.
Jane had been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 26, but after having her breast and lymph nodes removed, she was told she was in remission. However, a decade later it returned, and in August 2000, a consultant told her she had six months to live (while the timelines are different, this is also what happened with my own wife Caroline).
Eighteen months after that diagnosis and various chemotherapy treatments later, to the astonishment of her doctors, she finished the London Marathon. That was just the start of her amazing endeavors and with her brother Luke, she completed a 1,060-mile bike ride from John O’Groats to Land’s End and then a 2,500-mile Rome To Home bike ride. In July and August 2006, Jane spent nine weeks cycling 3,800 miles across the United States, raising £250,000. This was to be her final cycling challenge.
On 3rd September 2007 Jane died peacefully in St Gemma’s Hospice, Leeds, West Yorkshire. She had defied both the doctors and the odds for over seven years.
Just over 12 months ago I also was told my cancer had returned. I immediately decided I wasn’t going to bother with treatment, not really much point this time. I suggested that I’d like to go off and do some cycling and this was met with enthusiasm and the words “it will even be beneficial, where will you go?”
‘Oh, I was thinking of cycling across the roof of the world (Pamir Highway) and onto the Himalayas’
“Derek, you need to choose an easier challenge. In 12 to 18 months time you will most likely not be able to cycle at all, let alone ride in the mountains. What you are suggesting is impossible.”
‘That’s great, I like impossible and thank you for being so candid with me.’
After I’d completed the first part of the Pamir Highway, resting up in Khorog, I remember a conversation I’d had with Clive (who’s father sadly had only recently been diagnosed with cancer) and he asked me “do you think it’s possible to heal yourself?” to which I replied an emphatic ‘no‘. My illness is not going to go away and the chest x-ray taken after my recent accident clearly shows the damage caused by the cancer. The only thing I believe is that being positive helps and I think of Jane, who defied all the odds for a further seven years. I’ll ride until I no longer can, that’s all I can say for certain.
I may not have completed the full Pamir Highway, but I rode most of it and this makes me very happy on a number of counts. Firstly proving that impossible is indeed possible if you have belief in yourself, though I have to admit to having some doubts as to whether I could actually pull it off. Next I know from the various messages I’ve received that my travels and fortitude in the face of substantial adversity is helping others, this for me is the most pleasing aspect of what I’m doing.
I now face my biggest challenge to date, replacing the kit damaged in the accident. The bike I’ve now learned is a total write-off and along with the additional kit listed in my previous blog, this will completely empty my meager fund pot. This is why I’m asking for help. Not where I wanted to be, but sometimes things happen that you just cannot predict. If you’d like to help, please consider making a small donation by clicking the button in the right sidebar, or the one below. Thanks.
If I do manage to continue, then I plan to ride across Canada and the USA without money as my funds will have almost certainly run out. I will call this trip “The Goodwill Tour” and every Canadian & American I’ve so far spoken to tells me this is possible – sounds like a good next challenge!!