In 2004 Alex Heelis was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. After many years of treatment, she is now in remission, and her friends wanted to show their support Alex and all that she has gone through, as well as their appreciation to Anthony Nolan for helping her. So they decided to take on an epic cycling challenge, riding 180 miles from town to town with each destination starting with a letter to spell out Anthony Nolan. See how they got on in this blog post.
We have all been friends with Alex since 2006, with varying degrees of humour, compost advice and blind panic when she kept getting poorly on us. (read more about Alex’s story in our blog post here)
In 2004 she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia and since then has been aiming for the world record in ‘types of nasty treatment you can have’, including chemotherapy, total body irradiation two stem cell transplants and monthly visits for the last 5 years to Rotherham General Hospital (far away) to have treatment for Graft versus Host Disease. She has now been in remission for 8 years!
To celebrate this fact we as a motley crew wanted to complete a challenge that might in some small way reflect our admiration of Alex and her unending positivity and our gratitude to Anthony Nolan for saving our friend’s life twice and for all they have done for thousands of others with similarly bad luck.
On the 1st May we arrived in dribs and drabs at a B&B up the road from Rotherham General Hospital. Nachos were eaten (carb loading) and we caught up on how Richard’s ride to the ride had gone (he did 150 miles on the 3 days before we even started).
We had a briefing from Alex and Sarah (support vehicle crew extraordinaire) about the plan for the morning – photo shoot at 8am, followed by breakfast, followed by le Grand Depart. We headed to bed feeling excited and, quite frankly, terrified.
Saturday morning already – photo shoot with doctors and nurses from the photopheresis unit done and off we go! Phil on navigations, Richard on road safety and peloton etiquette and Jess, Charlie, Becki and myself on singing duty. Sarah and Alex on flapjacks in support vehicle.
As someone who completed the ride with less training than would be advised and minimal involvement in planning, I have to pay tribute to the organisation and preparation of both Sarah and Alex who between them contacted press, organised and recce-d the route, kept people updated with our progress on social media and baked enough sweet treats to keep Team Sky going through the Tour de France.
3 days, 180 miles via 12 towns spelling ANTHONY NOLAN, and a lot of singing later we roll into the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, cheered in by our support team and an impressively large gathering of family and friends (9 people, 1 baby, 1 dog).
Time for another photo shoot (with Alex’s consultant Professor Craddock) and for the Asti to be cracked open. We made it! No injuries, no punctures and a remarkably low number of wrong turns.
We have raised £4,217.89 (and counting), are incredibly grateful for all the donations, and feel immensely proud that we can hand over this amount of money to such a great cause.
If the funds go towards allowing Anthony Nolan to help even one person as much as they have helped Alex then it will be more than worth it: as the 180 donations that we had testify, the work that they do touches the lives of not just those with blood cancer but of those that know, care about and value them as well.
With our bike ride we wanted to raise money, raise awareness but above all say thank you – we hope we have done that, and I for one will be back for Rollin’ for Nolan Part 2: the Europe Edition!
You can sponsor Alex and her friends on their Justgiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/Rollinfornolan/