Liège to London: riding for Guy’s Cancer
Meet Simon Hughes
Simon Hughes is a Consultant Clinical Oncologist at the Cancer Centre at Guy’s, where he treats patients with urological cancers. He is actively involved in clinical research, developing new radiation-based treatments, and has a passion for medical education.
Find out what Simon's typical working day looks like, the best part of his job, and how he is preparing for the Liège to London Bike Ride.
What time does your day start and what does that typically look like?
My day normally starts early, around 7.30am with a coffee, clearing urgent emails before clinical work starts at 8am. Every day is different and can include outpatient clinics, meetings to discuss patient care with other specialists, radiotherapy planning, ward rounds, reviewing inpatients, research meetings, paperwork and management meetings.
Fifty per cent of my job is medical education. I’m one of the associate clinical deans of GKT (Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’) Medical School, the largest medical school in Europe, based at King’s College London. I oversee the delivery of the clinical parts of the course at Guy’s and St Thomas’ as well as other hospitals in London and Kent.
I’m also the Education and Training Lead for Cancer at King’s Health Partners and Guy’s Cancer Academy where our team develop training and educational resources for clinical staff, patients and their families and carers.
What are your main responsibilities?
I’m responsible for cancer treatment, mainly for prostate and bladder cancer, including systemic therapy (such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy and drugs) and radiotherapy.
As well as delivering treatment, I manage the side effects that go along with it. When I’m not working on cancer treatment, I work in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education, run cancer-related education programmes and training, and conduct research studies.
What made you decide to become a specialist in this area?
Oncology by nature lends itself to developing an ongoing relationship with patients. Particularly in urology, because treatment plans often run over several years. We work in partnership with patients during that time to determine the best course of action based on their personal priorities as well as their cancer treatment needs.
It also allows me to use my knowledge to help patients and their families during one of the most challenging times of their lives. When I first specialised in oncology, the treatment options available were limited, and the oncology community has spent the last decade making significant progress towards improving the lives of patients with cancer.
What is your most memorable moment as a consultant?
It was at the British Embassy in Moscow, overlooking the Kremlin, with a team of medical students from GKT Medical School who had just presented their research work at an international meeting held at Sechenov University. This was part of the UK-Russia young medics initiative to encourage research collaborations between the two countries.
What is the best part of your job?
Every time a post-treatment scan or blood test shows there’s no cancer. Also, when radiotherapy or chemotherapy or hormonal therapy has improved a troublesome symptom, like pain.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Having to break the news when we’ve run out of active treatment options and trial options.
How do you relax after work?
I love rugby, although these days it’s more watching than playing, but I’m an ex-rugby player for Guy’s Hospital RFC – the oldest rugby club in the world. I’m very active, I crew for an offshore racing yacht and when I’m not doing those things, I’m planning bizarre adventures for charity.
So far, I’ve raced Tuk Tuks across India, the foothills of the Himalayas and Indonesia, I’ve also raced a Mototaxi across the Andes and was in the winning team in the Dumball Rally (a fancy- dress driving festival) in India in 2016.
Are you looking forward to the Liège to London Bike Ride?
Yes, although it will be a challenge, especially for a heavy ex-rugby player who appears to be riding backwards every time there’s a slight hill! But, I know many of the other riders from our first charity ride from Land’s End to Guy’s Cancer Centre in 2016, and met the others during the planning of this event, and I know the camaraderie, banter, and support will be fantastic.
Why did you decide to do it?
Because I did the last one and managed to complete it without riding in the “van of shame”! Also, it will be inspirational riding with a group of friends, some of whom who have personal experience of cancer treatment, and all of whom are united in their desire to improve future cancer treatments through funding research.
What is your training schedule like?
I bought a home exercise bike as a risky birthday present for my wife and have been training on that mainly. Living in central London, I’m not keen on cycling into work and I have also been spending a lot of time working overseas this year for research and medical education, so I’m also an expert on hotel gyms.
Are you already a keen cyclist?
I’m getting back into it. Before signing up for this challenge, the last time I rode my bike was in a previous Land’s End to London Bike Ride for Guy’s Cancer in May 2016.
How will you celebrate completing the ride?
If last time is anything to go by, it will probably involve sitting on a very soft cushion.
The Liege to London Bike Ride is a 300-mile, three-day cycle from the Belgian City of Liege to Guy’s Hospital in London between 19 - 21 September 2019. The brainchild of cancer survivor Gary Saunders, the ride is a celebration of survivorship to raise funds for vital research and treatment.
The team of 18 are a mix of cancer survivors, dedicated cancer professions, friends and family. Together, they will cycle challenging climbs like the Paterberg and ride past famous historic sites including the Menin Gate in Ypres and the beaches of Dunkirk.
Support the riders’ journey to raise funds for Guy’s Cancer, donate now. https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/liegelondon