I'm looking forward to seeing Smacking Fish change the world, and I'd love to be part of that change.##
Some of you may have received an email from Smacking Fish recently, but for those that didn't, we sent out an email asking for people to share their dreams with us, in hope that we'd be able to assist some way, in true Smacking Fish fashion!
We never imagined that in response we'd receive such a heartfelt and inspirational letter. Read how Hywel Jenkins went from a series of personal tragedies to co-founding the 100 project fundraising for cancer patients.
I've just re-read your call-to-action email, and wondered if I can help.
I've been involved with fundraising for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research here in the UK for a few years now. Originally it was marathon running, then I challenged a friend of mine to do 16 press-ups - she's a girl, so they're really hard. In return, she challenged me to cycle to a town for each letter of the alphabet.
Coincidentally, after I'd already entered the Eden Project Marathon in 2011 (running for LLR), my girlfriend was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Not long after she finished treatment in October 2011, my dad was taken critically ill and was, eventually, told that he had multiple myeloma with complications as a result of renal failure. He and my mum made the most of the next sixteen months before he lost his battle. I watched them walk straight into Hell, hand-in-hand, aware that they weren't coming out. Often, when I speak to my mum, I worry that she's still there.
I started the cycling challenge on 17 March 2013. I went to the US on holiday on 20 March, returning two days later to be with my family. My dad passed away on 3 April. On the 21 April I restarted the challenge, riding a 60-mile roundtrip in crappy weather and with a heavy heart. I figured that if my parents could get through what they went through the least I could do was grow some balls, think of nothing but the turn of the pedals, and crack-on. There's no one who wouldn't swap a day of chemotherapy for a day on a push-bike in drizzly-British weather.
Attached are a couple of photos from my last ride - from my home in Cheltenham to the house where my dad was born and bred. There's one of me, my mum, and Big Dave who was with me on some of the toughest of the 26 rides.
The other is me with Naomi, the instigator and, I believe, the most remarkable young woman in the world. She's a true hero for many reasons. Naomi made a video to go with the AZ Challenge. It at least has a nice soundtrack and some good footage, even if the content is mostly me rambling.
Last August, while riding a hundred miles or so from Cheltenham to Brecon, I had a tyre blow out. I had to walk a mile or so before I could get a mobile phone signal, and as luck would have it I spotted that one of my calf muscles was aching and swollen. That resulted in me heading straight to A&E where I was diagnosed with DVT. That was a pain, literally. I was unable to walk for two weeks, and needed to take five weeks off the bike. Still, it's small beer in the grand scheme of things.
Not long before I was due to complete the AZ Challenge, Naomi came up with another fundraising idea: The 100 Project. It's simple, emotive, and effective. I'm proud to be part of it, and I don't take for granted how lucky I am to be counted as co-founder.
Since starting The 100 Project last October we've met over a hundred people who are all beating cancer. Sadly, one of our participants passed away earlier this year. His life was cut short far too soon, but he was blessed with a loving family, a huge group of friends who loved him, and the skills to, literally, change the world during his career as an optometrist. We're doing what we can with the skills we have to make a difference, however small. Save one life, save the world, you see?
Now, I'm not a hero nor that inspirational. I'm a bloke with too many bikes and a group of friends that know that if I say I'm going to do something, I'm either stubborn or dumb enough to do it. I think that if you want to do something but are a bit scared of it, tell someone you're going to do it - there's no way out, then.
I'm looking forward to seeing Smacking Fish change the world, and I'd love to be part of that change.
If you can, take a look at the 100 project and show support wherever possible.
Thanks for sharing your story Hywel.