Two years after Phil Church’s dad Norman was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he and five mates saddled up to cross the Pennine Bridleway to raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK and get help for dads everywhere.
It’s probably not something you would ever imagine doing when you take your child to school for his or her first day – that one day you’ll cycle across the country with a bunch of other dads from the same school.
But that was exactly what happened to engineer Phil and his group of cycle-mad mates from Reigate. Last year, they completed an eye-watering course from their home town to the Isle of Wight. Impressive, right?! But this year, the group upped the ante and, determined to make their summer count, they cycled across the tough terrain of the Pennine Bridleway – all 170 miles of it.
And, better yet, Phil, 45, and his bunch of two-wheeling pals did it all in the name of Men United, and have raised over £9,000 for Prostate Cancer UK, two years on from Phil’s father’s prostate cancer diagnosis.
“My dad, Norman, was 76 when he was diagnosed with localised prostate cancer,” says Phil. “He went to the doctor after he noticed he’d lost quite a bit of weight in a pretty short space of time. The doctor gave him a PSA test and he was diagnosed shortly after.
“When he told us he had prostate cancer, it came as a huge shock for the whole family – it’s a big wake up call that your parents are getting older and they won’t be with you forever. But the family all rallied and in a way, it was a kind of relief to know what was wrong with him, and that fortunately, he had treatment options available.”
We’re getting close to a time in our lives when we’ll be at risk of developing it ourselves, so we all wanted to do something to raise some money to help Prostate Cancer UK
“I took a break from work to help him get to his hospital appointments. It meant a great deal to me that I was able to spend lots of time with him, especially while he was undergoing hormone treatment and radiotherapy. It’s not often that we get to spend time together, but I’m pleased that I was able to be there for him when he needed me most.
“Luckily, he responded well to his treatment and is now in remission and doing well. However, his experience means I now understand much more about prostate cancer, and as my friends and I are all in our 40s, we’re getting close to a time in our lives when we’ll be at risk of developing it ourselves, so we all wanted to do something to raise some money to help Prostate Cancer UK, both for men like my dad, but also for each other too.”
And so, over three days in June, Phil and his friends Christian, Andrew, Damien, Blake and Alex embarked on an epic adventure.
“We’re all keen cyclists, and for the past few years, we’ve been doing cycling challenges in different parts of the country. We had a great time going to the Isle of Wight last year, so this year, we decided to push ourselves even further, and have a go at some climbing while we were at it too.
“We all got to know each other over the last three and a half years as our children go to the same school. We meet every weekend to go for a ride together. It’s really nice to take a break away from work and family life, and share a joke or swap a story with my friends. It’s also a great way of keeping fit, and it also gives us a chance to moan about our wives every now and again!”
Setting off from Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria, the group battled strong winds as they cycled over 50 miles each day. Phil was glad he had his mates around to keep him going, and also, for the odd bit of entertainment along the way.
“The challenge this year was harder than anything else I’d experienced. And I found the second day especially tough, as we we’re battling for nine hours in strong winds. But my mates kept me going and every now and then they’d pass me some chocolate for a much needed energy boost.
“At one point, we had to cross a field of grazing cows. We almost got through unscathed, except two of the group somehow managed to get peed on by the cows! The wind didn’t help but luckily I managed to avoid that one!
“We’ve not started planning for our next cycle challenge just yet, but we’ll keep up our weekly rides and no doubt we’ll be back doing something even bigger and better next year.”
Kevin Webber, who lives with advanced prostate cancer, tells us his extraordinary story of marathon running while undergoing chemotherapy, and how he now plans to compete in the epic, trans-Sarahan Marathon Des Sables in April.