8th October 2020

Benedict Medlam: The Great Pulmonary Pedal

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This Clean Air Day [8th October], Benedict Medlam from West London shares his story of his mammoth cycling challenge in memory of his father, Jon, who passed away in August 2020 after being diagnosed with lung cancer less than a year before.

“The fundraiser trip saw two friends and I cycle the 1050 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats, camping along the way and carrying everything with us on our bikes.

My family’s experience has shown that lung cancer can strike when you least expect it and be far more severe and fatal than people realise. The fact that our father could go from someone who’d never really been ill, to someone with stage 4 terminal cancer was unbelievable. Yet it happened and he died within less than a year.

Before my father’s diagnosis, we weren’t aware of how common lung cancer actually is. That’s why we chose to fundraise for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, to raise awareness of the disease and its causes.

Not a lot of people know that air pollution is a cause of lung cancer. In fact, in the UK an estimated 7.8% of lung cancer cases each year are caused by PM 2.5 air pollution. These fine particles which are found at high levels on the London Underground can cause lung cancer, as well as other diseases such as heart disease and emphysema.

My father lived in London for 40-odd years – a highly polluted city – and commuted on the central line underground, which as we read in a Financial Times report, has over seven times the World Health Organisation pollution safe limit.

Cancer can attack so arbitrarily. Anyone can get lung cancer and often, lifestyle and environmental factors can increase a person’s risk of developing the disease.

Avoiding smoking is one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of developing lung cancer. We are proud to be supporting not only the UK’s only lung cancer charity, but also the charity that paved the way for the smoking ban coming into force in 2007. This rule will have undoubtably saved thousands of lives.

An unforgettable experience

“I have always been into cycling and this trip seemed like the perfect, most demanding event we could do… within reason of course!

After several months of preparation – including a cycle boot camp at the New Forest and an endless amount of Amazon scrolling for pieces of cycling gear I had never even heard of before – we set off from Land’s End on 26th August 2020.

With a jittery sense of excitement and trepidation, we began our 16-day journey, eager to get some miles under our belts. The first few days were very tough, the steep inclines of the Cornish coastal roads along with the remnants of a passing storm, led to a memorable but intense introduction to our journey.

The weather eased and the hills flattened as we crossed the Severn Bridge and reached Manchester, our halfway point, on day 8 – a nice return to our university stomping ground.

The subsequent days were some of the toughest – and most scenic – as we seemingly found ourselves battling all the hilly national parks the North has to offer.

We crossed into Scotland on day 10, the scenic border hills offering a memorable introduction, intensified all the more when the first Scottish landmark we encountered was a surprisingly located Tibetan Monastery.

We worked up through Scotland reaching our high point – both figuratively and literally -while cycling through the breath-taking Cairngorms, passing their ski resorts along the way. We then hit the Highlands and had a wonderful few days to the finish, reaching John O’Groats on day 16. It was a relief to have a well-earned pint and not have to erect our tiny damp tents!

The journey was an unforgettable trip, where the hardships made the joyful moments that much sweeter!

We are very proud to have completed the cycle and to have raised over £7,000 for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. We are honoured to be helping those with lung cancer live as well as possible for as long as possible.”