Local blood cancer patients have been selected to play a starring role when the elite Friends Life Women’s Tour cycle race comes to their towns next week.
A different supporter will go on the podium at the end of each day and present a prize jersey to that stage’s fastest British rider. They will be awarding the Best of British jersey on behalf of blood cancer charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, the race’s official charity partner.
The Women’s Tour will feature a wealth of British cycling talent, including Olympic champions Laura Trott, Dani King, and Lizzie Armitstead.
Sally Waller, 67, who is presenting the jersey at the end of Stage 2 (from Hinckley to Bedford) on Thursday 8 May, became a supporter of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research following her diagnosis of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in December 2009. She underwent two courses of chemotherapy at Milton Keynes Hospital but unfortunately both were unsuccessful and she required a stem cell transplant to save her life.
She says: “My donor, Darryl White had only joined the register in December 2009 - the month I was diagnosed - but I will be forever thankful that he did. It is because of donors like him, as well as the fantastic research into blood cancers led by charities such as Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, that many people are beating the disease.”
Michaela Dunn, 25, (pictured left) will present the jersey at the end of Stage 3 (from Felixstowe to Clacton) on Friday 9 May. Michaela was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in March 2013, shortly before her 24th birthday.
After a couple of weeks laid up with ear infections and feeling generally very unwell, Michaela unfortunately took a turn for the worse and was rushed to hospital. Following tests, she was told she had leukaemia and was transferred to St Bartholomew’s Hospital to undergo chemotherapy. On the 31 July 2013 she received the wonderful news that she was in remission.
Michaela says: “My cancer experience was tough and it has taught me a lot, but no matter how low things get there are always so many beautiful reasons to be happy.
“I owe my life to the people who cared for and supported me, and this charity played a huge role in the treatment that I received, which I will always be thankful for. I hope to be back on my bike this summer, taking part in cycling events for the charity to raise funds and awareness and help others diagnosed with the disease.”
Casey Bex, 6, (pictured below) will go up to the podium at the end of Stage 4 (from Cheshunt to Welwyn Garden City) on Saturday 10 May and present a prize jersey to the fastest British rider.
Casey and her family became supporters of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research following her diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) in January 2010.
Her parents, Bradley and Niki became concerned when they found unexplained bruising on their then two-year-olds’ back and visited their GP. Casey was sent straight to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge before being transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital for chemotherapy, completing the course in March 2012.
Bradley says: “It’s unbelievable to look at her now, compared with a couple of years ago when she was diagnosed. We soon learnt that because of the fantastic research into blood cancers, led by charities such as Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, many people like Casey are beating the disease and going on to live their lives to the full.”
Tryna Staddon, 41, will present the prize jersey to the fastest British rider at the end of Stage 5 (from Harwich to Bury St Edmunds) on Sunday 11 May. Tryna was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma on 5 July 2013.
After experiencing excruciating pains in her arm after drinking alcohol, Tryna’s doctor referred her to a liver clinic where initial tests proved inconclusive. Further tests, including a chest x-ray, detected lymphoma in her neck, armpits and lungs, as well as a 12cm mass in her chest. She underwent chemotherapy, and following a PET scan in December 2013, received the all clear.
She says: “I don't think I took it all in for ages - there was too much going on to stop and consider the enormity of it all. When I received the all clear in December it was the best Christmas present ever.
“It is such an exciting occasion to be involved in the first ever Women’s Tour. I am honoured to be presenting the jersey on behalf of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research and helping to raise awareness for the charity, as without their hard work I might not be here today.”
Dani King, who has become an ambassador for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research since winning her London 2012 gold medal, says: “I’m really excited to be competing in The Women’s Tour. British fans have totally embraced women’s cycling, so the local crowd reaction should be fantastic. I will be striving to wear the Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research jersey to show my support and raise awareness of the fantastic work the charity does to beat blood cancer.”
Members of the public inspired by The Women’s Tour can register for a range of cycling events run by Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, including the London to Paris bike ride (19 – 23 June), London Bikeathon (31 August) and Birmingham Bikeathon (21 September). For more information click here