This is blog post number three for yours truly, and the third time I’ve posted on the 19th of the month. Coincidence? Absolutely – but it couldn’t be more fitting given that I’m writing about someone for whom the number has a special significance: footballer Stiliyan Petrov, who wears 19 for Aston Villa and whose fans, in a moving tribute to their club captain, have marked the 19th minute of every game with applause since his leukaemia diagnosis in March 2012. Wednesday brought the welcome news that Petrov has finished the intensive phase of his chemo and can move onto the much gentler maintenance treatment which lasts for the next 2 years. I know what Stan’s going through, having been diagnosed with ALL 4 months before him. It certainly gets better from here on in, but it still took a good few months after I moved onto maintenance before I began to feel like my old self again – largely because your body really has taken a battering and the recovery process entails shifting a lot of what my doctor described as ‘rubbish’ out of your system.
Playing sport and keeping as active as possible helps a lot, and that won’t be a problem for Stan. It’s not for me to speculate on whether he’ll play at the highest level again, but whatever he chooses to do his club will take good care of him, as they’ve already shown through initiatives like last year’s Pedal for Petrov campaign. The treatment still affects things from time to time and right now I don’t think I could attain the level of fitness required to be a Premiership footballer (the skill’s not an issue, obviously…), but examples such as the West Ham defender Dan Potts, who overcame leukaemia in his childhood, and tennis player Ross Hutchins, who has spoken of his determination to get back on court after his treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, offer inspiration and encouragement that blood cancer can be beaten and life can once again be led to the full – not just in sport, of course, but in any walk of life.
I can’t talk about sportspeople and blood cancer without mentioning LLR figurehead Geoff Thomas, whom I recently had the pleasure of chatting to in the course of planning for our London to Paris bike ride in June. Taking place over 4 days and culminating in an iconic finishing stretch past the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower, the event promises to be something truly special, and I’m delighted to say I’ll be sticking around at LLR a little longer to work on it. I did a degree in French in a previous life and those language skills, although currently somewhat rusty, will hopefully prove very useful when it comes to helping organise things on the other side of the Channel. Although it’s our first year tackling London to Paris as an in-house event, the team has a wealth of experience which I’m sure will stand us in good stead.
Events such as the Brighton Marathon and the LLR Impact Day this month have provided an opportunity to chat with more of our supporters, including a few fellow patients, which has been fascinating and sometimes humbling – the more of the stories behind the fundraising we hear, the better. I look forward to continuing that trend with this weekend’s London Marathon – I’ll report back by the 19th of May at the latest!