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Marie Sams is ready to chalk up another emotional milestone after being treated for leukaemia when she takes part in this year’s Velo Birmingham & Midlands cycle.
The 38-year-old Operations Manager at Coventry University was inspired to take to the saddle after seeing fellow former leukaemia patients Mark Nicholas and Jenna Ostrowski cycle 500km from London to Paris to raise funds for Cure Leukaemia last September.
Having undergone her own battle with the disease, sadly alongside several other patients who didn’t make it through, Marie admits it will be an emotional journey when she takes part in the event on Sunday May 12th, which is also International Nurses Day. (Cure Leukaemia still have places for Velo Birmingham & Midlands – email email@example.com to sign up today).
Marie during her treatment
“I had been looking to do something for Cure Leukaemia for a while, but I am not a runner, and, to be honest, not much of a cyclist either,” says Marie. “However, I’m ready to take on the challenge!”
“I was following the progress of Cure Leukaemia’s L2P ride on Twitter; and noticed that both Mark and Jenna completed the distance having undergone treatment for leukaemia.”
“That inspired me to do something for the charity, and Velo seemed the perfect fit.
“Having said that, I hadn’t actually ridden a bike for any length of time since I was eight-years-old, but my friend Rachael has also put her name forward and that really helps to have peer support.
“We are going out for training rides on Sundays and building up the distance, and we also have a good laugh which I think is important and keeps us motivated.”
It was in April, 2016, that Marie was first diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia after her husband took her to A&E while she was suffering with a mouth infection, and had an episode of the shakes and blurred version (Click here for Marie’s story).
Her initial bout of chemotherapy didn’t work, after which she was referred to Professor Charlie Craddock CBE at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital for further treatment before undergoing a cord blood stem cell transplant.
Ultimately, the transplant worked, and Marie and is now in remission, but it hasn’t been without its challenges.
“Since 2016 – which we often joke in our house is the year that never was – I have looked after myself in a way I never did before,” she explains.
“Since being poorly I make sure I look after myself through diet, walking, regular meditation and surrounding myself with the people that I love.
“When you go through something like this, it gives you a new lease of life and you don’t take anything for granted anymore.
“I met a lot of patients while I was undergoing treatment and some of those people didn’t make it. Their memory inspires me to make sure I make the most of every single day.
“I wanted to raise funds for Cure Leukaemia because the work of their specialist nurses is incredible and remains fundamental to the care and wellbeing of patients both before and after stem cell transplant.
“The science and the treatment is so important, but also the empathy, and how the nurses help you through on the darker days.”
Marie has already supported Cure Leukaemia in several different ways, including through raising awareness on ‘Know AML Day’, the ‘Donate your Name’ initiative buying a plaque at the Centre for Clinical Haematology, and purchasing tickets for the charity’s special ‘Les Miserables’ takeover at the Birmingham Hippodrome on April 4th.
Now then for Velo, which is also extra special for the Coventry resident given the route is heading from Birmingham to the UK City of Culture for 2021, before returning back to the Second City.
“Going down the cobbles at Coventry Cathedral will be special, and the route also passes close to the University where I work,” says Marie.
“I’m just hoping it stays dry, and also hoping that I stay on the bike!
Marie is backing British Cycling’s #OneInAMillion campaign which aims to boost women’s cycling by 1 million by 2020 and 35% of Cure Leukaemia’s Velo Birmingham and Midlands team are female cyclists.
“I think it’s a great campaign and it’s nice to see so many female cyclists riding for Cure Leukaemia. I haven’t cycled properly for over 20 years so I’d certainly encourage other women to sign up and take part in what I’m sure will be a great event, for a cause that means so much to so many people.
“I’m not bothered in the slightest about how long it takes me, I just want to finish.
“It will certainly be an emotional day for me, and another milestone in my recovery.
“Never in a million years did I think I would be able to do a challenge like this, and I am really looking forward to it.”