First off, if you’re busy, close this and come back to it when you’ve got 5 minutes and a cup of tea.
It’s not work, and it’s not urgent, but it is important.
This is a request for your help, and it’s a story about luck. Let’s start with the story, and some audience participation. Think of a number. Got one? Is it even? Yes? Well done, you win. That’s luck – 50:50 chance. It was odd? Never mind, you lose, but hey it’s not life or death. Or maybe it is….
That’s basically the situation I found myself in April 2005, at 26 years old. In what I thought would be a routine post surgical check up, I was told the suspected haematoma that was removed had turned out to be a fist-sized soft tissue sarcoma – a very rare and very dangerous form of cancer. Just when I thought I would be told I could go back to play squash, I actually found myself sat in front of oncologists telling me I needed chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I ended up as a hospital in-patient for 3 or 4 days every 3 weeks for 6 cycles, followed by daily radiotherapy that lasted until the end of the year.
So where does the 50:50 come in? Well, those are the 5 year survival odds for the advanced type of cancer that I faced, and 2200 people in the UK face similar odds each year. Bone and soft tissue sarcomas are some of the rarest cancers that exist, and as such have relatively little research devoted to them. I had the same chance as you picking an even number, or tossing a coin and guessing ‘heads’. I survived. A brief look at the Sarcoma Trust fundraising page on JustGiving will tell you many sufferers aren’t so lucky.
There’s really no way to express the gratitude I have for the team that helped me, from the very first orthopod who wouldn’t take the easy option; the surgeon whose impeccable technique removed the cancer that not so long ago would have meant amputation; the medical oncologist whose first visit on landing from holiday was to see his patient; the clinical oncologist whose radiotherapy plan spared enough thigh muscle to be able to walk to radiotherapy across London every day; the wonderful staff at the hospital where I was treated; to the friends, family, and my beautiful girlfriend, now wife, who were by my side the whole time.
Which brings me to the second part of the story. This part of the story is the plea for your help. Of course, my survival is not just about luck. I had a team of spectacular doctors, nurses and just as importantly friends, family and all those other wonderful people that contribute to making someone sick well again. Without the skills, knowledge, care and love of these people, there’s a very good chance this email would be coming from someone in my memory, not from me. The Sarcoma Trust is a charity that was set up in 2007 to provide information and support to patients and their carers about this rare disease, and to support research leading to better treatment and outcomes for Sarcoma patients. Sarcoma makes up about 1% of cancers in the UK, and more research means better care and hopefully more people surviving.
That’s where you come in.
Surviving a serious illness affects many people in different ways – it has a tendency to add a little perspective to your life. Not too long ago I’d have lost the leg. Now I go by foot or cycle everywhere I can. On Saturday 18th of September, exactly 5 years from finishing radiotherapy I will cycle from Purley to Brighton. That’s 80 km, not a bad stretch for anyone. Now consider I had a large chunk of muscle taken out of my left thigh. Sounds tough doesn’t it? This is a plea not only for you to help improve the lives of patients with this terrible cancer, but very importantly, a plea that you’re going to make the pain of that ride worthwhile! I’m aiming to raise at least £1500 for the Sarcoma Trust, and I need your help to do it. And for those with a slightly evil streak – if you can double it – I’ll even take a shot at riding back the next day too.
So how about it? It’ll take moments – just click here and give whatever you can afford. Or Paypal me, send me cash, a cheque, postal order, even stamps! Go on, it’ll make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, I promise. Then send this on to anyone you think might be feeling generous, put it on Facebook, Twitter it, Blog it…whatever!
50:50 – that was my chance, let’s see if we can improve the odds for someone else.
Toby – Cancer survivor.
PS – If you want to show support, and are free on Saturday 18th September, come and have a beer with me afterwards in Brighton, but let me know you’re interested, and I’ll let you know where.
PPS – if there’s something a little bit wrong with you (like me), and you want to cycle it too – then the more the merrier! Again, just let me know, and get your friends and family to sponsor us too!”