TWO pensioners who have beaten cancer are taking on gruelling challenges to raise money for charity.
Brian Kirby, 76, who has battled cancer twice, is preparing to ride from his home in Littleworth Lane, Belton-in-Rutland, to the Austrian capital Vienna and back to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Brian has fought off bowl cancer twice after first being diagnosed in 2004. He fought off the disease but was devastated to be told by doctors in 2009 that it had returned. He has since been given the all-clear.
Brian also cared for his wife Ronnie, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and sadly died in 2012.
While battling to overcome his difficulties, Brian turned to pedal power and has since raised more than £7,000 for charity through numerous rides, including a journey last year which took him to Berlin and back. He is determined to complete his latest challenge, which he believes will be his biggest feat.
Brian, who sets off on his bike on Sunday, said: “Surviving cancer has given me a new life. I believe it’s up to me to live it to the full now and that’s what I try to do.
“I bought a bike in 2008 and that helped my recovery. I think my next challenge will be my toughest on a bike but I’m feeling ready for it.”
Brian’s journey takes him to Hull on two wheels, then by ferry to Rotterdam and across Holland before going into Germany and joining the river Rhine at Cologne. He will then be cycling down the Rhine to Mainz, before following the river all the way to Vienna.
He is expecting the journey to take about two months and hopes to ride between 40 and 50 miles a day, depending on his health. He will be carrying medical equipment on his journey as he had a colostomy.
He said: “I’m doing it totally on my own. It’s a real challenge because if you have a problem you have to deal with it on your own. But I am really looking forward to it.”
Brian, who is a volunteer driver at Voluntary Action Rutland, has set himself a target of raising £1,000.
To encourage people to sponsor him, Brian has launched a competition in which people can guess the number of miles he will be travelling. Brian will give £50 to the person whose guess is nearest to the final total.
Brian said: “It may encourage people to donate. I always think, if I can raise £1,000 that is great and anything over that is a real bonus.”
Brian hopes to complete his journey and be back home by July 2.
Fellow cancer survivor Jim Booth will be 70 when he treks 1,100 miles on the High Himalaya route from India across Nepal to Tibet this year.
Jim, known as “Yeti man”, says no one has managed the feat before and it will involve visiting nine of the ten highest mountains on earth at altitudes between 4,000 and 7,000 metres.
He said: “It is scheduled to take 100 days allowing for snow avalanches, rock falls and trails swept away by weather.”
Jim is the world’s oldest man to have climbed Mt Kyazo and was due to climb Mt Khumbuste in November, but says “things hit a large snag”.
The large snag was the return of bowel cancer and that meant major surgery at Peterborough City Hospital to remove his bowel and stomach.
Jim, from Market Deeping, said: “I can’t offer enough praise for the wonderful treatment from the surgeon, consultant Liz Drye, and all the staff at City Hospital.”
Most in Jim’s position would take life easier now, but he says staying active – and climbing – is his way of fighting the life-threatening disease.
He said: “I have battled with many forms of cancer in the last 12 years, but the main task is beating this disease and I keep looking for a major challenge to keep me going.
“This next one is much bigger than pulling a rickshaw from John O’Groats to Land’s End, which I did a few years ago in 32 days.
“The trouble with cancer, to be honest with you, is once you start sitting around little ailments become big millstones and then the stress sets in and cancer thrives on stress.”
The former Royal Marine is on a restricted diet since his surgery and a company from Langtoft is devising special meals for him to take on the trek, which begins in October. Oxygen levels at altitude will be less than 60 per cent much of the time, but Jim is confident he’s a fit as he was 20 years ago.
His Roof of the World Trek is open to charity fundraisers who want to do their bit for the likes of Help for Heroes and Cancer Research – and they can dip in for any one of at least ten staging posts along the route. He said: “I would also welcome sponsors for such things as a satellite phone, trekking boots and warm clothing etc.”
l Anyone who wants to take part can call Jim on 07586 708891 or visit wwww. tripnepal – sponsors will have names on the trekkers’ clothing.
l To sponsor Brian, visit www.justgiving.com/FREDERICK-KIRBY. Sponsorship forms to guess the mileage are available from Belton House, Littleworth Lane, Belton-in-Rutland.