Cycling for my family

Having survived cancer, Gary Saunders was inspired to set up the Liège to London Bike Ride, a 300-mile cycle ride with an 18 strong team including other cancer survivors and clinical staff to raise money for Guy’s Cancer to help more families like his.

Man held Gary Saunders, held aloft by two other men outdoors, after a charity cycle ride
Gary Saunders, held aloft by other supporters after a charity cycle ride

We’re no strangers to cancer in our family. In 2011, I was in my early 30s, newly married, with a two-year-old son and progressing well in my career. Then I was diagnosed with testicular cancer - bringing life to a grinding halt.

The next twelve months were rough, my initial treatment failed, and the cancer returned. It took three months of intensive treatment including chemotherapy to get rid of the cancer. My wife Lucy and son Tom spent the best part of those long months at my mother-in-law’s house, so after treatment, it was so good to all be back together again in our home in Kent.

I’m here today because of treatment that is only available due to research, which is lifesaving, but also very expensive. Life got back to normal for me, but with a new perspective and appreciation for the work of all of those in healthcare. So, I’ve been running and cycling to help raise money for Guy’s Cancer ever since, so that more people can access the kind of treatment I had.

Helping my dad

Unfortunately, our family was affected by cancer once more about four years ago when my dad, Roy, was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

The initial prognosis wasn’t good, he was facing the rest of his life without a bladder and with a bag instead. However, having met a few consultants during my own cancer treatment, I was able to help dad to understand that you can have a say in where you’re treated, and can always ask for a second opinion. So, we went off to Guy’s to discuss an alternative treatment plan around very targeted chemotherapy instead.

After two years, he was cancer-free and now just comes back for occasional check-ups, just to keep an eye on things and to see the Guy’s team. I think he also quite likes the excuse to have lunch or a coffee with me too. Now my dad is back to his beloved cricket umpiring, as sport is big in our family. He’s just turned 79 and is causing havoc on the cricket pitch, he loves to call the batsmen ‘out’ for using their pads rather than their bats!

What this cycle ride means to me

Family life is great now and we are keen to give something back by raising money for Guy’s Cancer to improve even more patient outcomes particularly with urological cancers, such as bladder cancer. Outcomes and treatment options are not all the same, research is expensive, without it a lot of other stories will have a very different ending from mine and my dad’s.

It’s exciting to get back out there for another big cycle ride, alongside cancer survivors and Guy’s Cancer clinical staff again. In 2016 a big group of us rode from Land’s End to London, and we raised well over £100K.

Our mix of ages and backgrounds is a reminder that cancer doesn’t really discriminate, it can affect anyone at any time.

Getting ready for the big ride

I cycle a lot already but I’m upping the miles as it gets closer. Land’s End to London was in May, the worst time of year to be doing it, because we had to train over the winter months, it was a real slog. This year the challenge is training during the summer holidays, but I’m organising a training ride for some of the team in preparation.

Riding side by side with an even bigger group of cancer survivors will be emotional at times. The route we’re taking will mean riding along the beaches at Dunkirk. I’ve never been there before, but to do something fantastic in a place with such historical significance will be pretty special.

How I hope Liège to London can make a difference

My case was fairly rare, I was really lucky, there are plenty of others who are not, there is always more to be done.


How can I support Liège to London

If you would like to support other cancer survivors like Gary, you can donate via the team’s JustGiving page. The Liege to London Bike Ride for Guy’s Cancer will take place 19-21 September 2019.

Donate here

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