David R
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Live Life Large: Cycling the London Bikeathon despite my type 1 diabetes and leukaemia

David R
Posted by
06 Aug 2013

I’ve always been an avid cyclist as a child and in my teens I used to do a lot of road cycling around my home county of Essex. Like most teenagers though I found girls, parties and drink, so the cycling for many years took a back seat, to the point I even sold all my bikes!

Then after getting married to my childhood school sweetheart, Mandi and with the birth of our first child, Charlotte I decided to get fit again and purchased a cheap mountain bike. Within 6 months I was hooked again and upgraded to an alloy-carbon hard tail mountain bike and went out in all weathers.

The pressures of work, family life and our second child Luke competed with cycling and so the bike got less and less used.  At the age of 33 one of life’s speed bumps hit and I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. This was a real life challenge and with the support of my family and friends I tackled it head on, as it wasn’t going to beat me.

The chemotherapy treatment was intense and our 3rd child, Chloe was born at the end of the last cycle of chemo. This always gave us something to look forward to. I took the positives from the whole cancer experience and thought well it’s an early wake up call to make the most of life. I came up with my catch phrase, “Live Life Large” and had every intention to ensure I did.

The road to recovery wasn’t always smooth with a few more scares along the way, when it was suspected I had lung cancer but proved to be a chicken pox scare on my lung! I didn’t get back on the bike for 2 years after the treatment and boy it was uncomfortable! I persevered and like every good cyclist had to buy various saddles until I was “comfy”.

Life was good and then the world went into financial meltdown when Lehman’s collapsed and like many people in the City at that time I needed to find a new challenge. So I headed off to the Middle East to live and work in Abu Dhabi. There was the ability to cycle almost every day in beautiful sunshine with wonderful views out to sea along sandy beaches. I purchased a hybrid bike and got really back into cycling in temperatures some days of 45 degrees! Enjoying on Tuesday night the fact the F1 circuit is opened up to cyclists and runners. Wonderful spinning like mad around the world’s greatest F1 circuit and it was even more fun racing an Aston Martin around it too on a track event experience! 

My time in the Middle East came to an end and I returned back home to deep darkest Essex!  Just prior to returning  I was introduced to the team captain, Glen Ashby of We Hate Hills & Wind cycling group. We Hate Hills & Wind(WHH) are not a club or a formal team, just a bunch of blokes who are enjoying getting out at the weekend to try to stay a bit fit, get some fresh air & some fun, followed by a lovely coffee & toast, or maybe even a full English sometimes!

The banter and laughter at the weekends on a ride is always a great tonic and we all have nicknames; mine is Chewbacca. After 6 years of challenges where we have cycled over 32,000 miles and have raised almost £200,000 for various charities. Glen really helped me to get my first serious carbon fibre road bike. It was awesome, though my wife, Mandi wondered why a “push bike” would cost so much!

Now the road cycling habit really began and it’s quite surprising the frequency of which you have a need to buy something new for your bike! In 2012 I joined WHH on an amazing and strenuous ride across the French Alps from Geneva to Nice, taking in some amazing sights as we road 348 miles over 4 days. For a club that hates hills we certainly climbed some serious Cols and coming down them was great fun. We raised thousands of pounds for charity  The experience was awesome and post the ride the cycling habit needed to be fed and a purchase of a new, lighter, faster bike had to be made.

Now it’s July 2013 and in the past couple of weeks life has thrown me and my family another speed bump to get over. I’d not been feeling quite 100pct and being a type 1 diabetic my blood sugars had been running a bit high. So just before a business trip to New York I had some blood tests. Though I didn’t let this stop me from hiring a race bike in New York and putting in a great ride at the weekend along the NY coastline. After returning and some more blood tests I was sent for an ultra sound and also a CT scan. There was a thought the cancer could have come back, but they all came back clear, but my white blood cell count was still high. So more blood tests, a meeting with the haematologist specialist and confirmation I now have Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia. My first reaction was "this shouldn’t stop me from doing the Prudential 100 Olympic Ride", only to be told it does and I have to pull out because it’s too close to me having my first bone marrow biopsy and beginning treatment. I was not happy about that, but it doesn’t prevent me from training, though a little lighter than normal and it does mean I’ll be fit enough for the next awesome charity ride, the London Bikeathon on September 15th.

The irony is I had the idea to enter the ride from a colleague at work. One of our WHH guys, Richard Bass (Twig) has leukaemia, so  I suggested to the club captain we enter to raise funds and awareness for Twig and now there are almost 35 of us doing the ride.  I suppose the definition of irony is looking to do the ride for a friend and then contracting leukaemia yourself. Well you have to look at the funny side of it don’t you!

Life still goes on, the cycling training still continues and a few more pounds drop off which isn’t a bad thing being a 42 year old middle aged man with Type 1 diabetes and now leukaemia who loves to cycle, but hates hills! So Live Life Large and be unstoppable to beat blood cancers.



Awesome... Im inspired by your story !

Im looking for a cycling group or club to ride together, would you have any advise ? Ive also just registered for the London to Paris 2014 charity ride so I need to get back on my bike to do some training as its been over 20 years since my last time on my bike.




I hope my reply earlier this week was useful to you and you're getting on the bike this weekend.

cheers D


David, You have been an inspiration to your co-workers and I have become a believer that there's nothing you can't do once you put your faith, mind and body behind it.