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Haverhill mum with cancer takes on 845 mile bike journey to help her fight against the disease



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A mum-of-three with stage four bowel cancer has spoken of the ‘overwhelming’ public response to a fund-raiser she launched to help pay for treatments not available on the NHS.

Bryony Dearman, who lives in Haverhill with husband Paul and their children, Tilda, 12, Elliott, 10, and Agatha, five, has lived with having fortnightly courses of chemotherapy since being diagnosed with the cancer at the beginning of August 2020, shortly before her 39th birthday.

The chemotherapy is keeping the cancer at bay but knowing that her future may well depend on using drugs not currently available on the NHS, Bryony has embarked on a virtual two-wheeled journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats, a route taking in 845 miles, to raise money for those potential treatments.

Bryony Dearman with husband Paul. Submitted picture
Bryony Dearman with husband Paul. Submitted picture

With the chemotherapy often rendering her unable to get out of bed or off the couch, she is cycling the route when she is up to it from her own kitchen, using Paul’s exercise bike.

And already the appeal, called Bryony’s Don’t Die Bike Ride has raised more than £5,200 towards a target of £8,000 in very quick time.

Bryony, who is also unable to return to her job at a supermarket because of the treatment, said: “I thought I would get the odd £10 donation here or there but the response has been really overwhelming.

Bryony Dearman putting in some miles on her exercise bike. Picture: Paul Dearman
Bryony Dearman putting in some miles on her exercise bike. Picture: Paul Dearman

“I had no idea people would be so generous and share and respond as they have.

“It must have been something like a fortnight (since the appeal was launched), a really short amount of time, at most three weeks.

“I will be pedaling my little heart out to fulfil what I want to do.”

Bryony explained more about how the monies raised (which are held by a third party) will be used.

“Under the heading of trying to be proactive and trying to plan ahead for things coming, because this is a marathon not a sprint, there are a couple of drugs that are used for the treatment of the type of cancer that I have.

“One of which I had previously (cetuximab) and has been very effective for me but under the NICE funding guidelines, if you stop having it for a period of longer than six weeks you can’t have it again.

“They suspended the rule during the period of Covid but that rule is now back in place.”

Bryony added that she would only be able to have cetuximab (a targeted drug that works alongside the chemotherapy) again if it were offered as a trial treatment or if she was to have it as a private treatment, but that is an option that is, she pointed out, ‘not a realistic one’.

She added: “Further down the line there is another drug that is not widely available on the NHS but has been very effective for people with my cancer, but it’s not one that NICE routinely allows on the NHS.

“So keeping myself busy with something positive and proactive is always about planning ahead for these particular possibilities.

“I’m a person that likes to plan for what might be coming up and I’m waiting for that point when I might be having that conversation with my oncologist.

“While I’m very physically able on my good days to get on a bike and do some miles, I would like to do that rather than wait until I’m less able.”

Her children, said Bryony, were ‘doing as well as can be expected’ given the situation, but she wants life to continue being as normal as possible for them.

The support from her family overall had, she added, also been ‘fantastic’.

The chemotherapy will continue indefinitely but it is a treatment that is at times very physically limiting for Bryony.

She said: “The idea of the chemotherapy is to obviously reduce or eliminate as much of the cancer as you can, to manage it going forward.

“It’s something that you have to make your peace with, that you are going to have to live with cancer, rather than move on.

“I’m doing as much as I can in the points during my chemotherapy that I’m feeling well but as soon as I have done my chemotherapy I’m not used to man nor beast for a few days.”