If riding the length of the UK wasn’t challenging enough, 37 year old David Martin did so on L-plates, riding a 125cc machine and shortly following his recovery from bowel cancer. We meet a truly remarkable man…
It’s May 31st 2016 and I’m lying on my side on a hospital bed. I’m wearing a rather fetching gown and a pair of disposable paper pants. Stood next to me is the consultant who has just had the fun task of inserting a camera in my rear end, and he now wishes to deliver the news no one ever wants to hear.
“I have found what I think is a cancerous tumour.”
The next couple of weeks are a blur of blood tests, CT scans, MRI scans and an emergency colostomy surgery. The same consultant now delivers the news from the scan results that show the cancer has already spread to several areas of my liver (stage 4). Later that day I’ve returned home from the surgery and that devastating news. I now have to use a colostomy bag, and then mild panic sets in when the gravity of my condition hits home. I have a little cry to myself.
Prior to the discovery of my cancer I had bought a brand new Derbi Terra Adventure 125cc. The main purpose of the bike was for the dally 20 mile round trip commute though the busy streets of Birmingham. Over the next 12 months I go through what can only be described as a balance between killing the cancer or killing me. Chemotherapy cannot really be described to anyone who hasn’t personally experienced it. You feel so drained, with days and days when you can’t get out of bed and a feeling of sickness that never goes away.
All this time my bike sat idle in the garage. Less than 200 miles on the clock, it patiently waited for the day I could ride it again. To me, the idea of riding the bike again became something to look forward too, it became more than just a bike I would use to get to work and back. It became a goal to achieve, a treat waiting for me once I was fit again to ride.
A year to the day of first diagnosis I had my final chemotherapy session. During that long year I underwent around 10 hour of surgery, 12 sessions of chemo, 5 sessions of radio therapy; at times my insides were being held in by over 70 metal staples.
Less than a month after my last treatment session, a recent scan confirmed that all the cancer had been removed and hadn’t returned!
Getting fit again after so long of laying around doing nothing was no easy task, starting with daily walks around the neighbourhood and doing some work around the house finally got me to a day I had been looking forward too.
The bike started and I rolled it out the garage! Over the next month I rode when I felt up to it and steadily increased the distance I would ride. The longest ride being around 70 miles from my home in Solihull up to visit family in Matlock. Still on ‘L plates’ and building my riding experience up slowly. The freedom and fresh air was amazing!
I had heard many riders talk of the sense of freedom that going for a ride gave them, and after feeling like a prisoner in my own home with cancer as my jailer, I now totally understood that feeling.
During the treatment I announced to my family that I would do something big once I was well enough again, and I really liked the idea of riding a motorbike from Land’s End to John o’Groats. Both my family and friends thought I had gone a little mad to even contemplate such a trip on a bike, let alone a small engined bikes and me still using ‘L’ plates avoiding motorways. With the support of my amazing partner Krina, I signed up.
Bright and early on the 9th September, having just seen my breakfast again due to nerves, I lined up with 25 other riders in front of the Land’s End visitors centre. Over the next week I rode 1400 miles of some of the finest UK backroads. Averaging around 180 miles a day was significantly more than the longest ride in one go that I had done before.
The weather was simply horrible, it rained heavily for some or all of every day, and it was tough going, but at the end of each day I had a great sense of achievement. The roughest day ended with a ride over the Pass of the Cattle into Applecross on the West coast of Scotland. I gather this is a tough ride when the conditions are nice, with lots of tight hairpins and single track roads. Add to that gale force winds, low cloud/fog and rain and looking back at that day it probably wasn’t the smartest of moves to ride over there as a learner rider in such conditions. However, I made it, and enjoyed every minute.
Did riding save me?
The doctors and nurses involved in my cancer treatment did a great job at fixing me physically, they also went a long way by being there to talk to if I needed it. However mental fitness over this time was tough.
Having the goal of getting out and riding really did help. Days of sitting around being unable to do anything seemed to pass that little bit quicker with an end game plan.
The run from Land’s End to John o’Groats for me was more than just a long ride, it truly was an adventure. I spent a long time worrying that I hadn’t given myself enough recovery time after my treatment before setting off, but I needn’t have worried. With the great support of the other riders I made it, and even my colostomy bag didn’t get in the way.
In the last 18 months I’ve stood very close to the edge of my own existence. I won the fight, and I got to ride away.
So what’s next? I’ve always wanted to see some parts of Scandinavia, and a bike sounds like a fun way to see it, and plenty of areas in America I’d love to see as well. The world’s my oyster, and now that I’ve passed my test I can possibly upgrade to a bigger bike, though the Derbi is a great bike!
Dave was raising money for the charity Beating Bowel Cancer along the way, raising over £2000 in the process. If you’d like to donate the donation link is still active. Find it here: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/long-ride-north
David did go onto cross the USA by motorcycle. More on that to come…
Dave has also had some stickers and patches printed up to spread the world of #getoutdostuff with all proceeds going to Cancer based support and research charities.
Available at: www.getoutdostuff.co.uk
And Facebook: www.facebook.com/getoutdostufflivelife