If Jake Bailey was given his cancer diagnosis 25 years ago, he believes he would have been left to die.
But because of research, the 21-year-old was able to beat the fastest growing cancer known to man, Burkitt’s Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and survived long past his two-week prognosis.
Now only four years later, the former Christchurch resident who lives on the Gold Coast, cycled almost 1300km from Sydney to Geelong in hope of giving others the same chance of survival.
The former Christchurch Boys’ High School head boy made international headlines in 2015 when he revealed his diagnosis during an end of year speech.
Since beating his cancer through chemotherapy and announcing his remission in January 2016, Mr Bailey has been passionate about finding a cure and says cancer research is the reason he is alive today.
“Twenty-five years ago, the type of cancer which I faced in 2015 was not treatable. That is to say, if I had of been diagnosed in 1994, I would have been left to die. There’s nothing the doctors could have done for me. But through the power of research alone, I am still alive today,” he said.
On Saturday, Mr Bailey and 172 other riders completed their nine days of cycling for Tour de Cure.
Mr Bailey is an ambassador for the Australian charity, which raises money to fund cancer research, support and prevention programmes.
The trip he says, was the equivalent distance from Auckland to Wellington and back again – with enough hills to have climbed Mt Everest one and half times over.
In total there were 232 riders who took part in the event, 173 completed the full nine days with 30 others riding in stages and 29 as support crew.
There was an average of seven hours of pedalling per day.
“We would start getting up at 5am and roll out at about 6-6.30am. Then we would ride until sunset most days and have stops along the way for food and water.”
Mr Bailey admitted the event was not as demanding physically as he expected but was “far more challenging” than he expected, mentally.
“We rode through some of the most inhospitable parts of Australia, sometimes in temperatures of -7 deg C. We rode through 40mm of rain at one point . . . it was pretty challenging conditions, particularly after not getting a huge amount of sleep every night . . . I remember waking up on a couple mornings dreading having to get back on the bike,” he said.
What made it easier was his ‘why.’
“We rode in groups and the riders were shifted around day by day . . . so you would ride alongside different people and the first question was always about the ‘why’. . . everyone has a cancer story.”
“It makes it a lot easier when you think about why you are doing it and your reason for being there . . . I don’t think I could have pushed myself to those limits and got up an rode through those conditions and trained for months for myself, I had to do it for someone else.”
Mr Bailey said so far the event has raised about $3 million. The charity has raised $10 million since the beginning of this year through other events.
He hopes to complete the event again next year.