John's on road to Paris after cancer battle

CYCLING from London to Paris would be a challenge for anyone but for a cancer survivor it's even more of an achievement.

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John Malcolm, Andy Jack, Ewan Fergus and Robert Barbour are teaming up for an epic charity cycle from London to France  Pictures: Mark Mainz
John Malcolm, Andy Jack, Ewan Fergus and Robert Barbour are teaming up for an epic charity cycle from London to France Pictures: Mark Mainz

Retired police inspector John Malcolm has battled back from the disease and is now raising cash for Prostate Cancer UK by cycling the 300 miles.

The 55-year-old, will be joined on his expedition this summer by a team of cycling buddies – including pals Andy Jack and Robert Barbour and yours truly– in a bid to raise thousands of pounds for the cause.

It's a remarkable turn-around from just three years ago when John was given the devastating diagnosis that he had prostate cancer.

But even through the very early stages of treatment he maintains he was always keen to get back on his bike, despite the fear and uncertainty that his test results brought with them.

Dad-of-two John said: "It was a routine blood test and a pretty sharp GP that picked up on it, sent me for further testing and confirmed the diagnosis.

"My first reaction was fear and anger, I don't know if it ever has sunk in, that's the reality.

"From the initial diagnosis to discussing the options, the scans, it was all very rapid.

"It started in February 2010, there was loads going on, an absolute whirlwind. You don't really get a handle on it, everything happens so fast.

"The treatment meant that you were very much in the hands of others, you were always treated like an individual but in many respects you were helpless.

"You're fully aware of the potential, there are no guarantees in cancer treatment. They were positive, but they didn't make false promises and were very honest about the side effects."

John underwent eight and a half weeks of radiotherapy.

He said: "Everyone's different, I didn't react particularly well to it. Others getting treated were fine but I got a lot of tiredness, I was lethargic, and felt weak."

He admits that having retired from the police in 2005, after serving for 30 years, he'd been used to being active and very much in charge of his own destiny. That all changed with the diagnosis.

John said: "Before, I'd been pretty active. In many respects you were in control of things, now all of a sudden other people are managing your life.

"It's not a question of how you deal with it, you've got to go with it, the options aren't great if you don't.

"You either go with the course of treatment and allow others to manage you or, if you don't get the treatment, there's only ever going to be one outcome."

Despite that, he made it a goal to get back out on his bike as quickly as he could.

He added: "It was very quick that I was back on the bike. I'd set myself a goal of doing the Tour of Britain London stage for the charity. I always said I'd be back on the bike in September."

And he did just that. Having finished the treatment in May that year, by September of 2010, John had raised £3000 for charity by cycling 40 miles in the London stage of the Tour of Britain.

He added: "Getting back on the bike was a goal, I knew I was going to be tired and I knew what the effects were, but it was determination and loads and loads of support from friends and family.

"I've been involved with the charity ever since with the Get Up and Go campaign to encourage anyone who's been through treatment to be physically active. I'm not asking people to go out and ride hundreds of miles or from London to Paris, just to engage with physical activity."

He's now getting ready for an even bigger challenge – cycling 300 miles from London to Paris in June with a bunch of friends to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK, the charity which provided vital support for John through his illness.

And as well as raising cash for the cause, John hopes to encourage other men to get themselves tested if they have the slightest concerns over prostate cancer.

He added: "If you suspect you've got any of the symptoms, go and get it checked. It may not be cancer. If it is cancer, catch it early and there's a good chance of a positive outcome.

"If we can help fund the charity and fund research, that would be great, but I'd also like to get the message out there: get to your GP."

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK.

More than 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year and 250,000 men are currently living with the disease.

Normally the growth of all cells is carefully controlled in the body. As cells die, they are replaced in an orderly fashion.

Cancer can develop when cells start to grow in an uncontrolled way. If this happens in the prostate gland, prostate cancer can develop.

Prostate cancer can grow slowly or very quickly.

Most prostate cancer is slow-growing to start with and may never cause any problems or symptoms in a man's lifetime.

However, some men will have cancer that is more aggressive or 'high risk.'

This needs treatment to help prevent or delay it spreading outside the prostate gland.

For more information log on to www.prostate canceruk.org

I ONLY really started cycling seriously at the tail end of last summer, and it wasn't long before I crossed paths with John.

On our first spin through the Renfrewshire countryside, he started telling me his story, and we became good friends.

He's always such a positive person and is great to have around when you're notching up the miles. His story stops you whingeing about "are we nearly there yet?" on a long ride.

So when John suggested the rather crazy sounding plan of cycling to Paris, I couldn't really say no.

I was pleased, though, when he added that the start line would be in London, rather than somewhere between Johnstone and Paisley, where we usually train.

That swung it for me, and I agreed.

I've got my own reasons for having an affinity to the cause, which I'll be writing about in the coming weeks in the pages of the Evening Times, as we continue our campaign to raise funds.

At the moment though, we're focusing on trying to get out on two wheels whenever time and the weather allows.

If you see us whizz by, give us a shout and say hello. And if you'd like to find out more about what we're doing and why, or even better donate some cash to the cause, please log on to www.justgiving.com/teams/gettofrance

EWAN FERGUS

Health

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