LEJOG ride helps Michael ‘reconstruct his world’

Mick and Nick strike the familiar pose after reaching John O’Groats

LEJOG ride helps Michael ‘reconstruct his world’

Michael Nelson feels as though he has “reconstructed his world” after riding from Land’s End to John O’Groats following treatment for a rare form of cancer.

And he reckons he is now ready to tackle just about anything after pedalling the length of the country with his good friend and fellow Cycling UK member Nick Dennis.

Michael, 67, was diagnosed with Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinaemia in August 2013, a rare lymphoma that won’t go away. After six months of chemotherapy at King’s College Hospital in London, he is now in ‘near complete remission’ – but that’s as good as it gets.

He said: “People keep asking – I keep asking – why I did the ride. I have been re-reading my cancer blog, and now I think I am closer to knowing why: To prove to myself that I am alive.

“During the chemo, I came closer to death than I like to think. Escaping with my life deserved an expression of being. The ride was the expression.

“I don’t think I had realised quite how broken down my world had become. Cycling LEJOG makes me feel like I have reconstructed my world. I have ridden across it, at least, and seen it in all its variety.”

Michael, who lives in West Norwood, south London, originally intended to ride End to End last spring, but realised he hadn’t recovered enough for such a physical challenge.

This year he felt fighting fit, which was just as well as he tackled a 1,000-mile journey which included pedalling into a strong northerly headwind with snow and hail thrown in.

He wrote a daily blog about the ride, entitled ‘Mick and Nick go End To End’, while the pair put their efforts to good use by raising over £6,000 for various cancer charities. 

During the chemotherapy, I came closer to death than I like to think. Escaping with my life deserved an expression of being. The End to End ride was the expression.”

Michael Nelson

Michael, who worked on the academic and political aspects of school meal nutrition before retirement, paid tribute to his cycling buddy.

He said: “Initially I considered doing the ride on my own. That would have been very different, and probably grim. I would like to thank Nick for being such a wonderful travelling companion and friend – equanimous, stoic, patient, humorous and quick-witted. He was also full of endless tales, with the gift of not repeating himself!”

Nick, who lives in Winchester and used to work as a geneticist at Southampton Hospital, repaid the compliment.

He said: “I think the harmony between us on the trip was really remarkable. There are very few people whose continual company over such a long period would not begin to be irksome. We seemed to be giggling together just as much at the end as at the beginning.”

Michael added: “I would not, could not, have done this if my wife Stephanie had not been so supportive about everything – the cancer, the training, my time away – and bullying me, in her gentle way, to do the things I needed to do to be ready for this. Nick’s wife Caroline was also tremendously supportive.

“The trip was exceptional. Not in the sense of going to the moon or walking backwards to China – after all, thousands of people ride the End to End every year. But it feels a little bit exceptional. We committed ourselves to the training, and organising the equipment, and to the ride itself. I suppose it requires a certain stick-to-it-iveness, for which you could read stubborn and obsessed!

“We have a tremendous feeling of pride and accomplishment, and I feel I could do anything now. Not anything anything, like becoming an astronaut, but if there were something I set my mind to, I could do it.

“The calm and space and lack of activity now beckons to be filled in a useful way. With sense of purpose, I look out on my sunny garden and think on what might come next.”

Mick and Nick thanked all those who have supported their fund-raising efforts for Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support, the chemotherapy unit at King’s College Hospital, and Anthony Nolan.

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