Candid With Cancer #8 – My Second Cancer Diagnosis
Thomas Ashley details his battle against AML as part of a new weekly blog
A Warwickshire man who completed an epic 3,200-mile bike ride across America for Cure Leukaemia, made it to the finish with just half-an-hour to spare before catching his flight home.
Dr Thomas Holdstock, a Control Engineer for Leamington Spa-based engineering firm Drive System Design (DSD), rode from Los Angeles to New York and battled all weathers to complete his challenge in 34 days, and just in time to catch his plane!
Tom took advantage of being able to take a month’s leave from work to take on the ride, to show support for DSD colleague Lizzie Dean, now in remission after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia four years ago and undergoing a world-first clinical trial after a stem cell transplant failed.
So far, he has already raised in excess of £8,000 for Cure Leukaemia as a result of his challenge.
“I’d got a month off coming up, and had been watching a few videos on YouTube where people were taking part in cycling challenges around the world,” says Tom, aged 34, who was brought up in Alcester and now lives in Birmingham.
“My Dad is a keen cyclist, and I’d done one or two events, but I started thinking I could give it a go, and maybe cover 100 miles a day for 30 days.
“When I looked at how far that could take me, going across from Los Angeles to New York was about that distance, so I started planning it and getting the equipment sorted.
“Obviously it was a bit daunting, as on the couple of occasions I had cycled into work which was 20 miles, I felt so tired afterwards!”
So it was that Tom headed Across the Pond, with his bike, a tent, and not much more, as he took on the route completely unassisted.
As he reveals, it certainly wasn’t plain sailing, although he was indebted to so many American people during the trip who helped him out.
“I have to be honest, it was gruelling – really, really hard,” he recalls.
“It’s hard to explain what it’s like to force yourself back onto the bike day after day, in pain, no matter the conditions with no one around to motivate you.
“But there were so many great memories as well.
“I remember in Kansas, riding down an undulating road as the sun went down and enjoying the view while listening to some good music on my speakers.
“With experiences like that, I soon forgot the bad times from the days before.
“There was some very different weather during the ride, from snow in Kansas, to 40 degrees of heat in Blythe, to 50mph crosswinds in Virginia, and torrential rain in Arizona.
“I lost a day to the snow in Kansas, and then was pretty much broken in Pennsylvania, so I did have to put my flight back a couple of days.
“Eventually I made it in to the World Trade Centre site and the finish with half an hour to spare before my rearranged flight.
“I had some pizza, three beers, and then turned up at the check-in desk still in my cycling gear and with my bike not even packed up.”
“I have to say the American people were great.
“There aren’t too many cyclists who cover that route so I certainly got some funny looks in my lycra, but when they found out what I was doing, and for charity, so many people bought me lunch or dinner.
“On other occasions, people helped me out with equipment and repairs when I needed it and a guy called Joey in Albuquerque gave me a room for the night and then covered 50km of the route with me the following day.
“Another guy from Phoenix drove an hour at 1 am to drop off a tyre and three inner tubes when he saw I had a tear in my tyre and had run out of tubes, so the help I got from so many people was fantastic.”
There was also plenty of support from Lizzie and Tom’s DSD colleagues during the mammoth challenge.
“There was a group chat where people would send me supportive messages and keep me going,” he said.
“I had originally thought I would just take the ride on for a bit of fun, but with what happened to Lizzie and the work of Cure Leukaemia, it was great to do it all properly and raise some money for charity.
“There have been other fundraising events at DSD as well, and everyone there has shown great support.”