One of the best things that came out of my cancer treatment for Hodgkin Lymphoma was taking up cycling, after 20 years out of the saddle in which I had become much more of a petrol head.
While I was dressed as the Native American to receive my chemo last August, I negotiated buying a bike off the friend who had accompanied me. I took to going out on Rasputin as I named it (or Raspy for short) for wobbly coastal runs when I was up to it and it felt really empowering - a huge ‘in your face’ to the illness and all that it was putting me through.
I got my all clear in November last year and in all honesty, readjusting to normal life again is a whole different sort of challenge. I was very grateful to the counselling I was offered by the cancer centre which was invaluable and alongside this, going out for increasingly longer cycle rides as my fitness improved was really good for the mind and spirit. I found that I often felt a step removed from things or that I had to explain my balding head or what I had been through. When I was on the bike however, I felt really connected to the world again. Although my thighs sometimes wished I was a little less connected to the pedals…
It was at the start of 2013 that I thought about signing up for some cycle challenges and the Team Meaker 100 miler was born, comprising of three rides that finished in June. I hoped people would sponsor me as I tried to give back on my bike after what I’d been through and a lot of people did. But it’s a competitive old market in the fundraising world and it’s not always enough to share your sponsor pages on Facebook or chat up pals at work, down the pub or gym. I took to a number of other ways to boost my total.
The idea for dressing up came about after a friend reposted my justgiving page on Facebook with a photo of the time I had dressed up as the invisible man to cheer her up while I had been in treatment. From this people started commenting on what I should dress as and #theladyofmanyfaces was born – a versatile fool who would take dressing up requests for charity cash. I made friends with a local fancy dress warehouse, made the most of face paints and took to the internet to try and recreate a whole host of requests ranging from The Incredible Hulk to John McEnroe. Worryingly, I seemed to look better dressed up as a man but if it brings the funds in, who am I to argue? I tweeted these too and got as many celebs as possible to retweet and share in the silliness. Here's the picture of me as The Incredible Hulk - I went through a lot of wet wipes and salt scrub in the shower after this hulking fundraising masterpiece!
You can see my blog of all the photos at http://teammeaker.tumblr.com/ if you have five minutes to waste - while you’re on hold to a utility company perhaps?
I also took the opportunity to contact my beloved AFC Bournemouth to see if they would help me promote my challenge. Wheeling my bike out on to the pitch for a photo with my favourite player wasn’t just good PR, it made me feel like an excited kid again. There are perks to being charitable you know!
The text giving option is great to help encourage people to give a couple of quid – I used it as the equivalent of passing a bucket round at the pub after a particularly raucous open mic performance and made £14 from a bunch of strangers!
Me after completing the Sussex Weald Bike Ride earlier this year
I also found organising a quiz night a brilliant way of topping up the total. My local were great in providing the venue for free; I got pals to bake cakes to sell; I badgered the cycle shop I got my bike serviced at and my gym to help with raffle prizes and I had a lot of fun pulling together the questions. We brought in £450 and I think I am going to make it an annual affair too.
I am really glad that I’ve raised over £2,200 for LLR – as well as over £1,000 for other good causes that helped me. I’m only here myself thanks to research. I am now hoping to make the most of the life I have ahead of me by retraining to work in fitness for cancer rehab. I’m still dressing up but it’s a lot more Lycra based these days.
May I wish you all the very best with your fundraising – set yourself a target, go smash it and enjoy the feeling. Or at the very least get Cheryl Baker to retweet your justgiving page!
Click here to Sponsor Shiv in her 'Team Meaker 100 miler' and fancy dress fundraising endeavours
Read Shiv's patient story
If you've recently been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and have yet to receive treatment you could be eligible to take part in a new clincial trial. Read more here.