London to Varese

800 Miles from London to Varese for Luke and Leukaemia


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The Medicine behind the Miracle

I often find myself gazing into the distance and wondering “how on earth did he find the strength to go through all of that?” By ‘he’ I am talking about Luke, of course. Unfortunately, my hardwiring avoids prolific and spiritual pontifications but chooses to deliberate on the basic science of the situation which, in its own right, is truly remarkable. Therefore, I felt compelled to write a little something about the leukaemia Luke battled.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is a disorder of how lymphocytes (white blood cells that govern our adaptive immune system) replicate. Genetic and environmental factors cause arrested maturation and uncontrolled proliferation of these lymphocytes. Essentially, these blood cells are like unsupervised replicating mutant-children running around a sweet shop, pillaging shelves, engorging their fat little faces, refusing to grow up and offering no protection to the human body whatsoever. As a consequence, everything swells as these brats pile into body systems uninvited! From the face, neck, lymph nodes, chest, spleen and liver; no organ is safe from these grubby little children with their sticky chocolate covered fingers. Before I continue I’d just like to clarify that this is in no way an attempt to slander children, I adore children and eventually would like to become a paediatric surgeon but, the analogy simply fits.

So, here we have Luke prior to diagnosis. Constantly exhausted (due to his profound anaemia), swollen like the love child of the Michelin man and susceptible to every infection listed in any medical text book worth its salt. One would think that, compared to the leukaemia, the treatment should make Luke feel better and on the mend once more, correct? Categorically not. Chemotherapy is poison to the body. Envisage that dirty pint your so called ‘friend’ handed you on your birthday and then add industrial bleach. Chemotherapy agents simply have no consideration for what is a healthy blood cell and what is an abnormal blood cell. Without differentiation or remorse, chemotherapy kills all cells. Patient’s can look forward to an array of side effects, including; nausea, vomiting, prolific diarrhoea, constant flu-like symptoms, fevers and shivers. Relatable to the worst possible hangover an individual can imagine but deeply intensified and prolonged for days on end.

But, at least after countless cycles of stomach wrenching chemotherapy treatment things do get better. Wrong again, I’m afraid. Then comes the bone quivering doses of full body radiotherapy, with none of the benefits of super powers like that of the Simpsons ‘Radioactive Man’. This was followed by a stem cell transplant; where the marrow was literally cored out of Cecca’s bones (Luke’s twin sister), spoon by spoon, after the drill found its target. Similar to the experience of dragging fingernails across a chalkboard but on a more internal level. Needless to say, having your bones cored out like an apple whilst you are fully conscious is a somewhat agonising tactile experience. Kudos of the highest degree must go to Cecca, your bravery literally saved your brother’s life. Finally, after all this, why not throw in a little ‘maintenance’ chemotherapy for good will. Not as intense but a concoction of colourful pills, all with a different weird and wonderful side effect to keeps things interesting.

Considering all the uplifting and inspiring blogs the HBR team has put together, why this morbidly glum addition, I hear you ask? I guess I just wanted to add some perspective for what Luke’s real journey against leukaemia was like. But, mainly, I wanted our readers to connect and relate to Luke’s story on a more personal level. Charity is indeed a wonderful gesture, but this story is as much about friendship as it is about wanting to help those in need. Every time the team feels exhausted from a long day at work, suffering the most horrendous man-flu/fevers/hangover, aching from top to toe and can sense the bone rattling weather conditions outdoors we mount our two wheels and ride in recognition of what Luke went through. It’s this intellectual experience of human empathy that connects us all, beyond the reasoning of science. We graft in sweat and physical endurance to show our solidarity for someone we care about deeply. To show him that we are all in this together and he won’t have to face such trials and tribulations without us, ever again. By ‘him’ I am talking about Luke, of course. Our friend that beat cancer.

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The Route

After much (ok, some) anticipation, we are pleased to unveil our route!

As you will see from the map below, we’ll be taking in London, Dover, Calais, Lille, Brussels, Luxembourg, Strasbourg, Colmar, Basel, Lugano and Varese, so if you happen to be in any of these places at the time and fancy seeing all of us in our lycra (an appealing prospect, we know), we’d be grateful for your support.

In all we will be covering a little over 800 miles, assuming we don’t get lost at all…

We’ll be departing London on 12th April (fresh-faced and eager) and arriving in Varese at noon on 24th April (with sun-burned faces and exhausted), giving us 11.5 days to get there (we will have a well-earned rest day in Colmar where Team Driver, Will Mathias, has managed to get a friendly vineyard owner to put us up).

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Turn those pedals, burn that turkey!

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So the festive period is over and most of us are now back at work, yet again ruing the Christmas gluttony and watching the January days stretch out ahead of us as an impossible month of diets and discipline!

But for those of us who are partial to the odd turn of the pedals of a weekend, just how much January riding and discipline does it take to burn off all that merry over-indulgence?

Well that’s a very good question, and so we have a done a little bit of research and a few calculations our of team’s struggle to burn off that turkey that will either spur you on to ride that extra mile, or may just send you running back to the mince pies in horror….enjoy!

The average Brit consumers 7,000 calories on Christmas Day.

Let’s assume the average weight of the team riders is 80kg.

Assuming an average ride speed of 24kmh, it will take EACH of the team Handsome but Rowdy boys 11 HOURS or 264KM of constant riding to burn off just that one day – eeek!

And assuming that Christmas Day wasn’t the only over-indulgent day of the holidays, but that we probably all spent at least 4 more days over-eating to the tune of 3,500 calories per day, it will take another 22 HOURS or a further 528KM to burn off.

Wow! We better all get cracking in that case so please spare a thought for the team this January who will be valiantly pedalling, climbing, gliding and descending, in all weathers, all in an attempt to make a difference to Leukaemia this year.


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Motivation for 2014

So 2013 is finished and in a few months the Handsome but Rowdy team will be undertaking a huge challenge when cycling to Italy. So on that note, I think this video will be a great bit of motivation to get out on our bikes and train as hard as we possibly can so that we can succeed in helping all the leukaemia sufferers see that all is not lost.