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My care team gave me my life back, how can "thank you" ever be enough?

18th Sep 2020

Steve Gunby is taking on the 2020 Virtual London to Paris cycle after being diagnosed with Myeloma in 2019. He'd never taken on 300 miles before, but he grew into the challenge...

Steve Gunby.jpg

I work for a funeral home, and in September 2019 I broke my back carrying a coffin out of a church. After a few months of tests, scans, and investigating, a cause was finally found: I had myeloma.

I initially didn’t know what myeloma was, but was encouraged to learn that it’s a slow-growing and very treatable form of blood cancer. My prognosis, I was told, was ten years plus.

I started treatment straight away. All the staff at the Phoenix unit I attend were so positive that right from the start, I felt I couldn’t let them down. I endeavoured to trust them all completely, ten years plus it is!

“Along came coronavirus”

When the pandemic hit, lockdown slowly began to restrict everyday life. I felt very vulnerable and it became hard to remain positive.

Luckily, after initially being cancelled for my safety, my stem cell transplant got the go-ahead. I attended my stem cell harvest in mid-June and returned two weeks later for my transplant, spending the next two weeks in isolation at Sunderland Royal.

I remember feeling relief when I left isolation, but mostly I was grateful. It had been a surreal journey as you are totally dependent on others, but I received the most incredible care from an amazing team of dedicated individuals.

Receiving treatment during lockdown, however, meant that I had gained a bit of weight. I was determined that when I left isolation I would get fit again but wasn’t quite sure how to go about it, especially as I still had to socially distance in the short term.

The perfect challenge

It was then that I heard about Blood Cancer UK’s Virtual London to Paris challenge, and I knew it was perfect for me. It provided me with a challenge to get fit and lose some weight, and even though it was shortly after my transplant, I registered and set up my fundraising page straight away.

I began training three times a week and was managing to complete 20k each ride. It was hard and I was tired, but the main problem I encountered became apparent at the end of August… boy was I saddle sore!

My family urged me to take my time and I must admit I began to experience some doubts. 300 miles was a long way, and when I realised that my bike only records in kilometres and 300 miles is actually 483 kilometres… my confidence dipped.

However I’d already begun to receive such great support from family and friends, and donations too. I couldn’t drop out, not now.

“If I was going to do this, I had to do the very best I could”

And so it began. When it comes to sports I’d always been fit and fairly competitive, and I managed to clock a massive distance on day four: 146.7 kilometres. I’d never cycled these kinds of distances before!

But it was once I’d passed 400 kilometres, I knew I had done this. I was euphoric when I reached my goal, so much so that I thought, “well I’ve come this far, I might as well round it up to 500k”. And that’s exactly what I did!

I’m still sore but it’s been so worth it. It’s been a huge accomplishment for me personally, especially as it’s so soon after my transplant and I’ve managed to raise £800 (and rising) for Blood Cancer UK.

However, for me the real winners are my consultant, my care team, and everyone who make up our most wonderful NHS.

They’re the ones who made this all possible for me.

They’ve given me my life back, how can saying thank you ever be enough?

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