Graeme's story – why I cycled 1,180 miles for Maggie’s

Wednesday 15 January 2020

Maggie's Manchester

This summer I cycled to every single Maggie’s centre. I started in Swansea and finished in Inverness. It was an incredible 16‐day, 1,180 mile journey and I raised £24,000.

My Maggie's to Maggie's challenge

In 2019, I cycled to every single Maggie’s centre to raise money and awareness of the cancer support Maggie's provides. I started in Swansea and finished in Inverness. It was an incredible 16‐day, 1,180 mile journey and I raised £24,000.

The funny thing is I didn’t start off wanting to fundraise. I’ve done challenges before for different causes and I thought my friends would be sick of donating money.

I was really surprised when I told someone about my plan to raise awareness by doing this challenge and she immediately said “I’ll sponsor you!” It went from there really. I’ve been amazed at how many people have sponsored me – even people I don’t know. 

My motivation 

I was diagnosed with facial cancer in the summer of 2011 but I started noticing that something was wrong the previous autumn. It all started with a watery eye. I was fit and healthy, had a good diet and played squash for the county so I didn’t think it would be anything serious. It was a real shock to be diagnosed. 

I’ve had 29 operations, two lots of radiotherapy and two lots of chemotherapy. I went from someone who was able to rehabilitate people in my job as a physiotherapist to someone who needed rehabilitating himself. Which was where Maggie’s came in of course. I crawled into Maggie’s Manchester, about to undertake an horrendous course of chemo, and I felt calm and able to relax. 

By 2017 my cancer had spread to my neck and I was offered palliative care. I wanted to do all I could to keep the cancer at bay and to feel as well as I could. 

The challenge 

I decided to encourage other men, and women, to go to Maggie’s and that’s why I decided to undertake a Maggie’s to Maggie’s challenge with a difference – visiting all the centres.

I cycled on my own but I arranged for friends to join me for a leg or two at a time. My bike had extra mirrors to make up for the partial loss of hearing in one ear and the loss of one eye. 

I’ve been involved as a physio and a cyclist for the Lawrence Dallaglio Foundation so I knew how to plan a big ride. I fell behind between Fife, Aberdeen and Inverness due to torrential rain. It was a setback, but knowing I was aiming for a new centre each time kept me motivated. 

I like architecture and I’m inspired by it. Each centre has something spectacular about it. Really though it’s the staff that make each centre special. They bring the joy. 

You can’t underestimate the impact of achieving something like this. When I had finished I felt like I could have done it all again!

If you’re thinking about a challenge 

If you’re reading this and thinking about fundraising I would say pick something realistic and plan carefully. The challenge doesn’t have to be as big as mine. What’s a challenge for one person might not be for another. 

Involve as many friends as you can. Try and make it enjoyable and prepare in terms of training and equipment. There are a lot of health benefits to people with cancer through exercise – but of course check with your healthcare team so you don’t overcommit. 

The psychological benefit of completing a challenge with your friends is immense.

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