Awareness, Awareness, Awareness

When Eleanor offered to write a guest blog based on her own desire to commit to #LCFN, I wanted to give her story centre stage. But the more I thought about it, and particularly at this special time in the calendar year, the more I realised that I needed to respond in kind, because Eleanor has come at this in exactly the same way as I did two years ago. She became aware…

Straight up, I have to admit that I don’t know how long September has been regarded as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. That in itself tells you a story. The story is about awareness itself. When I started out in August 2013, I couldn’t have told you that two weeks hence it was going to be Cancer Awareness Month and that people would be going gold. I hadn’t a clue. But I know now, and I know that a lot of other people also know because of the effort we’ve all put in, everyone out there who supports me week in and week out. That in itself is a result, albeit in a small way in the grand scheme of things.

Eleanor’s blog “Planting Seeds In Fallow Ground” is a perfect example of what can be achieved when a fertile mind is receptive to a worthy idea.

Shout it from the rooftops if you have to: September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Go Gold! Put a gold twibbon on your profile picture on Facebook and on Twitter. Explain to your followers why you’ve done it and get the message out there. The merging of the NCCA (UK) with Solving Kids Cancer to form one global brand committed to finding a cure for neuroblastoma is proof enough that the power of communication and networking is producing results.

And so it is with LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma. At the end of 2013, this blog was running at 125 visitors per month. By the end of 2014, the number was up to 171. Now, with four months of 2015 still to go, the average number of visitors is up again to 229 a month. Those numbers tell their own story. Many of those visitors would perhaps not have heard of neuroblastoma had it not been for an old bloke with a folding bike, a bus pass and an idea. And it makes my job worth every minute spent in the saddle: it’s why I do it.

I tread a fine line between being timid and pushy in my pursuit of marketing the #LCFN concept. I am the first to admit that a lot of the people in the group are there because they were volunteered, but hey, the vast majority of them have decided to stay the course so perhaps the message is worth punting after all. I know it’s regarded as bad manners to add people to a group rather than them requesting to be there, but when the issue is as important as kids’ cancer, maybe it’s okay to break the rules and preach from the pulpit. It could be your kid tomorrow and awareness is fundamentally important. It’s the same reason why I decided to write a blog this week, in addition to Eleanor’s wonderful work. September 1st matters.

And I’m impatient: impatient for the stats to show that 2015 has generated more interest in #LCFN than 2014 did. I want that to be the case sometime during September. Imagine being in a position where we’ve beaten last year’s number of visitors with three months still remaining. Imagine doing it in Awareness month! That’s progress, real progress, and it should be enough to keep every one of us with a spring in our step for the remainder of the journey.

Talking of journeys, and of not being backward in coming forward, #LCFN has a new follower, and she’s a blue tick follower at that (a blue tick follower is someone of special interest). It came about like this: ever since I got my road bike (three birthdays, three new bikes), I’ve upped the mileage and the pace, particularly in the morning on the run into work. That translates directly into being in Glasgow ten minutes earlier than before, so instead of having a lie in and getting up later, I’ve just been bagging more miles. The summer route has included a loop through Pollok Park (I just love Pollok Park at dawn, with the sun peeping through the trees) followed by a jaunt through a deserted south side. It was on one such trip that I noticed a wee yellow motor parked up in a side street. How could you possibly fail to notice this wee motor? There was stuff written on the side but I failed to read it first time past. Nor the second time because it was parked in another street. So the third time I spotted it, I slowed right down and had a good look. The reference on the side panel was to @ChaJoiner, aka Charline Joiner, once probably famous for having a big brother who played on the wing for Scotland at rugby, but now a star in her own right, courtesy of a Commonwealth Games silver medal at Delhi in 2010. Charline might have hoped to go one better at the Glasgow games last year but a horror training crash in Spain six months before the Games left her with her back broken in three places. That accident alone puts my shopping trolley and fallen tree in the dark episodes firmly in their place. So anyway, when I got to work that morning, I followed Charline on Twitter and the rest, as they say, is history. She now follows @VonSchiehallion, aka the LifeCycle Man, and who knows, one of these days I might be able to entice her out across the Fenwick Muir on one of those epic winter rides that only the Muir can serve up. Methinks that this young lady has what it takes to understand why I’m spending two hours on a bike, twice a day, for the hell of it. And I suspect she knows the science behind fuelling the exercise. Now I want to meet Charline!

The sense I get this time around as we approach the end of August is one of keen anticipation. For a start, there’s the need to get in people’s faces for the next few weeks and really raise the profile of kids cancer, and neuroblastoma in particular because that’s my gig. I ask myself whether Charline knew of neuroblastoma before I gatecrashed her Twitter feed. The same question is true of Tiff Alkouri of the Fire Tiger band, although in that instance Tiff followed me first so she probably did know already. There is only one way to keep getting message out there and that is to keep knocking on Social Media doors and if necessary, bashing them down. I don’t mean in being rude, I’m politely saying “hey, did you know that neuroblastoma is the number one cancer killer of kids under five? Did you know that neuroblastoma is the number one cause of solid tumour cancers in kids under five? And do you know what to look for in a child that just might have neuroblastoma”? These are critical questions, and ones that ultimately might just save a young life if people knew what to look for.

And so to the miles…

I reported a few weeks ago that I was being bothered again with the after effects of my hernia, and also by hamstring tendonitis. My response on both counts has been to cut back on the big Friday home run, the one that I traditionally used to bump up the miles, and instead go for a more rounded approach, and where necessary use lower gears and avoid the biggest hills. But there’s no denying the Fenwick Muir its place in #LCFN culture so despite not actively seeking out the hills, every day still adds up to 2,500ft of climbing. But the miles have been altogether more rounded. That consistency has translated itself into a much calmed down hernia, a knee that knows that it’s no longer being asked to perform outside its limits, and the result has been 936 miles this month with tomorrow still to come. A while back, I would have bagged an extra fifteen on Friday to set up an assault on a thousand mile month but I no longer need that. All I need to do now is focus on being sensible and bringing myself and the bike home in one piece for the 8,808 miles that remain.

The weather forecast for the coming week is for much lighter winds, and from the north and east too, which means settled conditions and colder mornings. I can handle that. It also means that I can expect to seek out some more spectacular sunrise photos up on the Muir and kickstart a fantastic September. I have at the back on my mind, and I mentioned this a few weeks ago, the prospect of being able to deliver the 20,000th mile on my mother’s 90th birthday at the start of December. For that to become reality, I need a clear run without injury, illness or major mechanical failure. I just need to up my game, ever so slightly from where I’m at just now. 43 a day should do it. Then I just need to keep an eye on the schedule.

As with childhood cancer, it’s all about Awareness, Awareness, Awareness

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