My experience with WM started with a visit to the optician in February 2019. I was getting blurred vision which I put down to needing an eye test. I was also experiencing frequent infections, which I thought was due to just a stressful time.
I shall be forever grateful to my optician for seeing something abnormal with the blood vessels in my eyes. They referred me to the Bournemouth Eye hospital who did blood tests. The next day I had a call from the haematology department, and, aged 62, my WM journey began. Various other tests followed leading to 6 months of chemotherapy with Bendamustine and Rituxamab, along with 16 plasma exchanges.
During this treatment, I knew I had to keep positive so my mind drifted to thoughts of future adventures. Being a keen cyclist of many years I knew these adventures would have to include my bike. By the end of the treatment my plans were in place: I would take on the famous Land’s End to John O’Groats route (popularly referred to as LEJOG), cycling from the far south west of mainland Britain, to its most northern tip.
All I needed to do was recover my energies post chemo. This took rather longer than I had hoped. First, I was referred to a local sports centre who put me on a program of exercises to regain my strength and stamina. From there, I very gradually built up my cycle fitness – over the course of many months I finally felt ready and at the start of 2021 bookings were made and training started. The anticipation grew: could I complete the challenge?
On the 9th of August I set off from Land’s End The route was on small, quiet roads so a bigger milage was involved: in total 1,000 miles, with more than two Everests worth of hills to ride up, (or walk up in the Highlands of Scotland!). Every day I had the energy to ride which was very reassuring given the fatigue I had felt prior to my treatment. 14 days later, I arrived in John O’Groats.
The object of my story is not to get everyone out on their bikes (although I can recommend it) but to demonstrate that it is possible to go back and enjoy the activities you took part in before having WM treatment – whether that’s cycling, walking, or yoga.
I would stress to anyone looking to build their fitness again that the most important thing is to take it slowly. Speak to your healthcare team, and see if they can refer you like I was, so you can get help in building a fitness plan. It won’t come back overnight, but there are so many benefits – both physical and mental – to doing exercise that make the effort well worth it.
My thanks go to Dr Helen McMarthy and all at the Jigsaw Building at Bournemouth Hospital for my treatment, as well as WMUK for their ongoing support.