72-Year-Old to Ride Across New Zealand on 70-Year-Old Bike
72-YEAR-OLD TO RIDE ACROSS NEW ZEALAND ON 70-YEAR-OLD BIKE FOR LYMPHOMA
John Smithies, is riding the length of New Zealand at the age of 72 on a rusty 1940’s three-speed bike, to raise awareness of the blood cancer lymphoma.
John from Lake Ohau in the Mackenzie Basin, will set off on World Lymphoma Awareness Day on 15 September from Cape Reinga. He is undertaking this challenge in memory of his wife Alison who died of who died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2011.
John is aiming to educate people about lymphoma, the most common form of blood cancer (with two Kiwis being diagnosed every day), and raise significant funds for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand as he makes his way down the country.
John, a father of four and grandfather to six, found the bike abandoned after the 2011 earthquake on a demolition site in Christchurch.
“I reckon it’s about the same age as me – 1940s vintage,” he grins. “It’s pretty rusty and only has three gears, but it should get me there.”
“I was married 48 wonderful years,” says John. “Alison and I used to talk about how we’d give something back to the fantastic people who supported us through this all. Unfortunately Alison can’t go with me, but I can do it.”
In 2001, Alison, a Theatre Nurse and Cardiopulmonary Technician, noticed a lump under her cheek bone. She was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and told there was no cure for the form she was diagnosed with. Devastated, but determined to make their time left together as long and good as possible, Alison and John got on with the job of living well. They continued their active lifestyle of building their house at Lake Ohau, tramping and sailing. Alison, juggling bouts of chemotherapy, redoubled her efforts as a gardener and environmentalist.
Alison lost her fight in 2011.
John says initially their children weren’t supportive about his plan to cycle the country in her memory.
“They said, ‘Have you seen State Highway One Dad? You can’t cycle that!’ But they’re really supportive now, I’ve worn them down.”
John, still a keen cyclist and tramper, says he hasn’t had a training programme for the trip.
“I stay fit through a healthy and active lifestyle, and I’m not one to let life pass me by. Dad used to say, ‘If you stop and think about every step you’ll spend your life standing on one foot.’ So I guess you can say I’ll be on two feet, every day, and that’s how I’ll get to the Bluff.”
Chief Executive Officer of Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand Pru Etcheverry says she is incredibly touched by John’s heroic effort.
“We are incredibly touched and very grateful for all that John is doing on our behalf. His huge personal quest to raise awareness of lymphoma is inspirational, as it’s the sixth most common form of cancer in New Zealand yet very few people have heard of it or are aware of its signs and symptoms.”
You can view John’s fundraising page here: http://www.leukaemia.org.nz/view_event_profile/2513
Notes to Editor
Key facts about lymphoma
World Lymphoma Awareness Day (WLAD) is a global event observed every year on 15 September.
WLAD is an international effort to raise much-needed awareness about lymphoma. Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand is a member of the international Lymphoma Coalition which aims to raise awareness about lymphoma. Lymphoma is increasing in incidence globally; an increase which is reflected in New Zealand where:
• Lymphoma ranks as the 6th most common cancer
• Lymphoma is the most common cancer in 15-24 year olds
• Close to 900 people are diagnosed with lymphoma every year
• Lymphoma is more common than leukaemia
Initial diagnosis of lymphoma can be difficult. The
symptoms of lymphoma are often mistaken for less serious
illnesses such as flu, fatigue or glandular fever. It is
essential that the disease is recognised early because, if
treated appropriately, some types of lymphoma can be
For more information about lymphoma please visit http://www.lymphoma.org.nz
About Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand
Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand (LBC) is the national charity dedicated to supporting patients and their families living with blood cancers and conditions.
• LBC does not receive government funding and is supported entirely by voluntary donations from supporters, sponsors and fundraising.
• LBC is committed to improving the quality of life for patients and their families living with these blood cancers and conditions by providing patient support services, research, information, awareness and advocacy.