It was whilst lying on a Birmingham hospital bed in 2005 following 10 days and nights of intensive chemotherapy that Mike Grisenthwaite hatched the idea of Cyclists Fighting Cancer. The one time Sale rugby player and Ironman competitor was recovering from a relapse of the Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma that had originally taken hold five years previously.
“I’d read a lot of articles and studies that highlighted the benefits of sport to aid recovery from cancer. However, no one was actually telling the very people affected by the disease what the consequences of doing exercise were – good, bad or otherwise.”
It was there that the journey for CFC began, with Grisenthwaite initially running the charity from his kitchen table and self-funding the initial events and activities. Twelve years since his bone marrow transplant, CFC is now a nationwide charity and, although very much at the helm, Mike is keen to move the focus away from his own story and instead to those of the many children the charity supports.
“In the first 2 years we probably gave away around 60 or so bikes” says Mike, who trained as a cancer exercise specialist in Colorado during this time, “and we’d go to conferences and talk to various people in the NHS spreading the word about the charity and the benefits of exercise and activity.”
And spreading the word remains the fundamental focus of the charity’s work to this day. “The bicycles are the cherry on the cake really, you can see across the CFC website the great photos of children receiving their bikes for the first time and what it means to them but it’s only a small part of a much bigger process.”
“Activity is great for recovery, not only the physical advantage for cardio and muscular groups, but also mental wellbeing too. The social element, being outdoors, racing children in the street is really important. Often these children have been sat in hospital for 2 to 3 years with everything dictated to them, all of a sudden they have an independence and are in control of what they are doing. It’s an extremely empowering experience.”
This process is particularly poignant for children rendered disabled by the effects of cancer, often due to amputations or loss of muscle function due to damage to the nervous system. CFC creates specially adapted trikes for those that are most severely affected, sending out a fitter to ensure that the bike is custom-made to the exact specifications of the child. “The joy on the faces of the children and their parents is incredible. It never stops being a goosebumps moment.”
Until now, Cyclists Fighting Cancer has been focussed on those up to the age of 18, but the charity has ambitions to increase this cut off to 24. “We want to expand the work that we’re doing to young adults, offering them advice extending to physical training and nutrition. Currently we see a drop off of applicants after the age of 14, even though the incidents of cancer rise over this age. If anything the applications should be increasing.”
In the meantime CFC will continue its quest to deliver life changing moments to those children affected by cancer, with Wearwell’s Sock it to Cancer campaign making an ongoing contribution to the Charity’s extraordinary work.
“I’ve known [Wearwell co-founder] Will for a long time now having raced with him on the Great Britain Transplant Team and also in some of the events we’ve done for CFC and we’re delighted to have Wearwell on board. It’s a great initiative.”
Cyclists Fighting Cancer (CFC) is a registered charity (England and Wales 1140017, Scotland SCO46635) founded in 2005 which provides a unique and highly effective way of helping kids with cancer through activity and exercise.
Just some of the hundreds of children helped by CFC