A Londoner who beat the odds to survive leukaemia but developed severe side effects from his treatment is teaming up with his doctor to take on an epic charity cycle ride.
Valeri Stoitchkov, 44, from Shepherd’s Bush, is in training for the 75-mile route at the London Bikeathon on Sunday 16 September to raise money for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. A stem cell transplant at Hammersmith Hospital saved Valeri’s life in 1997, after he had been diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia three years earlier. Unfortunately the transplant and steroids used during treatment also had serious long-term side-effects. As well as developing cataracts and problems with his arteries, Valeri’s legs and joints remain in constant pain. Despite this, he is determined to complete the fundraising challenge, which follows the course of the 2012 Olympic Cycling Road Race.
Valeri said, “It’s been tough but at the end of the day I’m alive, which I’m hugely grateful for. I’m glad I’m in a position where I’m able to help others. Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research is a great charity and the work they do is so important.
“Strangely cycling is less painful for me than walking so I think I should be ok on the day. I’ll definitely give it a good try - I’m stubborn enough to complete it! I cycle to work every day, so that’s good practice.”
Valeri still has regular check-ups to monitor his condition and on the day he will be joined by Professor Francesco Dazzi, his consultant at Hammersmith Hospital. Francesco is also an Imperial College London scientist, working on a project to prevent ‘Graft vs. Host Disease’, the common transplant side-effect Valeri developed.
Graft vs. Host Disease is caused when the immune cells of the donor, which are also transferred during the transplant, recognise the patient’s own cells as foreign and attack them. Professor Dazzi is investigating ways of harnessing the powers of a newly discovered stem cell in order to control the donor immune system.
Francesco, 52, said: “Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research is supporting my research into graft-versus-host disease, which has had such a devastating effect on Valeri. The response so far to our fundraising has been incredible, with so many people, including patients, being amazingly generous in their sponsorship.
“Valeri and I have both done some cycling before and at his last check-up, we got talking about the 75-mile course at the London Bikeathon and thought ‘Why not?’! I’m pretty unfit and we have had very little time to train for it, but I think we should cope!”
Now in its 16th year, the London Bikeathon is expected to attract over 7,000 people on routes that pass by some of London’s most iconic sights, including St. Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, Tate Britain and Royal Festival Hall.
The London Bikeathon starts from three locations, Thames Barrier Park in the East, the National Trust’s Ham House in the West and the Royal Hospital Chelsea in Central London. The event is currently open for entries and there are still a limited number of spaces available on routes ranging from 13, 26 and 52 miles from all venues.
You can support Valeri and Francesco as they cycle to beat blood cancer by visiting their fundraising page at www.justgiving.com/Francesco-Dazzi
More information about the London Bikeathon is available here