INSPIRATIONS: Cycling from London to Paris to beat leukaemia

Steve Mitchell, who had leukaemia is cycling from London to Paris. Picture by Kate Shemilt. C140203-2
Steve Mitchell, who had leukaemia is cycling from London to Paris. Picture by Kate Shemilt. C140203-2

FIVE years ago, Steve Mitchell was lying in a hospital bed receiving treatment for leukaemia, but this summer he will be cycling from London to Paris.

The father-of-two from Selsey is taking to the saddle to fundraise for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, after having come through extensive treatment.

He first noticed something was wrong in October, 2008.

“It all came about because my brother was diagnosed with cancer the year before and his was terminal. I examined myself and found a lump,” he said.

Despite being in no pain and not feeling ill, he got the lump on his groin checked out and after three months was diagnosed with acute leukaemia.

“I was initially an in-patient a lot of the time in Chichester between January and June. Then I went down to Southampton to be in complete confinement for two months.”

His treatment involved chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant and he was told his survival chances were just 30 per cent.

At the time his two children, Aaron and Elise, were aged eight and four.

“I obviously lost all my hair and was very fragile, very weak. It was quite alarming for those guys.”

During his time at Southampton General Hospital, he was not allowed any visitors, for fear of being passed an infection while his immune system was weak. He went two months without seeing his children.

While in Southampton, his older brother passed away from prostate cancer, aged 60.

It was June 2009 that Steve had his bone marrow transplant.

After this he returned home, but was still very weak and even sitting on a bike would have presented a difficulty.

“When I was first released I had to walk around with a mask on, because of infections. I had to sleep downstairs because I wasn’t strong enough to get up a staircase.”

However, the transplant was a complete success and within nine months he was getting back on his bike.

Now, several years on, he has spoken at conferences about recovering from leukaemia and the importance of researching the illness.

He spoke to more than 100 students at the University of Southampton, something which he described at the time as being ‘scarier than leukaemia’.

He signed up only this month for the gruelling 350-mile ride, which starts on June 19 in London.

The race lasts four days and the first day is the road to Dover, before catching the ferry across the Channel and staying overnight in Calais.

Steve said the reason for doing it was to raise money and also awareness of leukaemia, highlighting the fact it could happen to anyone.

Coincidentally, he now runs a bike shop in Selsey, Summit Bikes, in Hillfield Road. He has lived in the town around eight years.

He is training hard, saying it was quite tricky with the recent weather conditions.

“I’m excited, I’m looking forward to it,” he said, adding he was also a little bit dubious at the speed category he had entered under.

The race features four different categories – slow, medium, fast and elite. He has entered the fast category.

“I may need to amend that closer to the day,” he said.

He said the timing of the race would be special, as June marks five years since he had his bone marrow transplant.

Five years also marks the time when he is able to contact his anonymous donor, if both parties are in agreement.

“After you’ve had a transplant you’re not allowed any contact with your donor, unless it’s a sibling or something,” he said, adding 
you were able to exchange thank-you cards through the hospital.

“Obviously if something went wrong, the donor isn’t going to be feeling too great about it. I was offered to send a card and didn’t feel that it was anywhere near enough.”

He said he also wrote a couple of poems to his saviour, thanking her and saying how grateful he was.

All he knows is at the time, she was a 35-year-old woman, living somewhere in the UK.

His fundraising target is £2,000 for the charity and he has already been sponsored more than £1,000, according to his fundraising page.

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