'I'm beating cancer on my bike'

Daily Echo: Sarah Andersen Sarah Andersen

I HAVE had many labels in my life; daughter, wife, mother, businesswoman and even Arctic explorer.

The day I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, however, left me with the label “cancer patient”, a label hard to come to terms with and equally hard to shake off.

My second son was only 12 weeks old at the time, making the physical and emotional adjustment, fuelled by post pregnancy hormones, a tough place to be.

Following a gruelling marathon of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy over the course of the next 12 months I gradually began to get my life back – a move to Burley in the New Forest and a return to work and it felt like some normality had been reached.

I have always been very active and sporty, loving the outdoors, so living in the New Forest has been great with its endless cycle tracks and fabulous places to run with our mad Vizsla dog Rufus.

A friend introduced me to road cycling in 2011 and shortly after I bought my first road bike and took part in a 100km cycle event around the New Forest. It was a fabulous experience and I immediately started researching other events I could participate in.

Unfortunately, in 2012, I was diagnosed with breast cancer again, this time in the other breast and totally unrelated to the previous occurrence.

My life came to a standstill once more.

I knew the road I was going to have to travel, I knew how bad the bad days could get and I now had boys aged six and eight, who would have to watch their mum go through it all.

In balance to all of that, however, I had the most amazing support from family and friends, who kept me laughing when I felt like crying and gave me strength when I had little of my own.

And so the process started again.

During this time the friend who had introduced me to the world of cycling, Jane Young, took part in the first New Forest Cycletta event, which is backed by Olympian Victoria Pendleton. I was too ill at the time to consider taking part but Jane had said it was the most amazing experience and that we should do it together when I was well again.

I have battled hard to regain my fitness since finishing treatment and had a further hurdle to go in May having chosen to have a prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction.

It was the thought of having to return to the world of being a patient again that spurred me on to look for a goal to provide me with a focus during my recovery.

The Macmillan Cycletta was just perfect: a women-only event (no testosterone driven racing) in the beautiful back-drop of the New Forest.

Local to me and the timing of mid- September in terms of recovery also made it a good fit.

I have found throughout my life that any form of physical exercise has helped me deal with stress and given me a more positive outlook on life – and oh boy have I needed that at times!

Taking part in organised events such as this in the past has provided me with a sense of challenge and also a magnificent sense of camaraderie, particularly if done as a group.

For this reason I didn’t want to take part in the Macmillan Cycletta on my own – I wanted to take on the challenge with all the wonderful family and friends who had supported me every step of the way (the female contingent at least) – and so the ‘Wild Women 1000km’ was born.

I have asked friends and family to join me at the Macmillan Cycletta New Forest to collectively cycle more than 1,000km. So far I have 24 ladies signed up and 1,460km pledged, with the numbers growing daily.

Many of the ladies are based in the New Forest but I also have family and friends coming all the way from Scotland to participate. There are a number of us undertaking 100km on road bikes but some are looking for a more relaxed day, doing shorter distances on shopping bikes and even a tandem.

Daily Echo:

They all have their own reasons for taking part and many will have a story of their own as to why raising money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Macmillan is important to them.

We are hoping to raise a sizeable sum of money for these charities to support finding better treatments and ultimately a cure for breast cancer and to ensure that no-one faces cancer alone.

Get involved

Victoria Pendleton is urging Hampshire women to get on their bikes.

The multiple Olympic gold medal winner is backing Macmillan Cycletta, the UK’s only cycling series exclusively for women.

The Macmillan Cycletta New Forest takes place on Sunday, September 21 starting at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu.

The event has different distances, including a 20km for beginners, the classic 40km, the challenge distance of 70km for more experienced riders as well as the new 100km route. There will also be a children’s Scootathlon, which is a mini triathlon for children aged between the ages of four and eight where they scoot 150m, bike 600m and run 200m.

Women taking part will get goodie-bags and there will be a post event relaxation and stretching zone.

To sponsor the Wild Women team visit justgiving.com/teams/wild women1000km. To take part log on to humanrace.co.uk/cycletta.

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