Thanks to my Friends, Family, and Sponsors,
A week on since competing I am writing this message to express my deepest gratitude to all of you for supporting me in my recent journey to Perth, Australia, where I participated in the World Transplant Games. It was an incredible experience, and I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to represent the hospitals of Northern Ireland – the Western and Belfast trust, five years after my cancer diagnosis and a tandem bone marrow transplant.
I was able to come away with not just one, but two bronze medals in the individual time trial and in the road race, but even more excitingly, I am a World Champion in the team time trial along with my GBNI team mates, Nick Topley and Sean Rintoul. It was a truly exhilarating and unforgettable experience, and I couldn’t have done it without you all.
I want to take this opportunity to encourage anyone who may be going through a difficult time to find their inner purpose and something they want to master, which can help them mentally, physically, or both. There is life after a cancer diagnosis, and I am a living testament to that. So, do what makes you happy and engage your inner Thranness. Ride on!
My Road to Perth and Race Reports:
In 2018 my world fell apart for a bit. I got the call none of us want but unfortunately a lot of us receive whether it’s us personally or a close relative or friend and that’s a Cancer diagnosis. I’ve always been relatively active but being silly as I was too old I went back to my local Gaelic football club in Jan 2018 for some pre season training where I hurt my hip, as the weeks and months went on it got worse, went to physio no better and then coughing and sneezing became sore so went to the docs about a hernia, nothing found so routine bloods were ordered. Tuesday the 28th March, which is the day I met my wife 9 years previous, but unfortunately on this day the phone rang and it was that dreaded suspected diagnosis of multiple myeloma.
From that day it was a bit of a roller coaster, I was told I should stop sports and especially cycling given how much risk is associated with Myeloma and bone fractures, I started radiotherapy:
- 5 weeks of Radiotherapy (40gy)
- Cancer Progression
- 6 months of Chemotherapy (VTD – Velcade/Thalidomide/Dexamethasone)
- Cancer Progression / Refractory to Chemotherapy drugs
- 3 Months Chemotherapy (RD-PACE – Revlimid/Dexamethasone – Cisplatin/Adriamycin/Cyclophosphamide/Etoposide)
- 1 Autologous (My own cells) Bone Marrow / Stem Cell Transplant (Melphalan)
- 4 months Chemotherapy (Revlimid/Dexamethasone)
- 1 Allogeneic (My brother Damian’s cells) Bone Marrow / Stem Cell Transplant (low dose Melphalan)
- 7 months remission
- Cancer back another Relapse
- 8 months Chemotherapy (Revlimid)
- 1 week of Radiotherapy (20gy)
- 4 Donor Lymphocyte (T-Cells) infusions
At the time of writing I am in Remission again.
During my treatment I was constantly told to know my limits and accept a new normal, but when you’re told you can’t do something or when I am told my inner Irish thranness comes out. I don’t think there is a better word for Mental toughness than “Thranness”.
My mental medicine was cycling, it allowed me to escape normality whether it was for 20 mins or multiple hours and in return was helping me recover physically as you can see from photos there are many shapes to a cancer patient so exercise is a must. My consultant could see how cycling was helping my recovery and asked me if I knew about the transplant games, and I hadn’t. I don’t think anyone does unless they are a recipient or a donor. He gave me the contact details and I got signed up for the British Transplant games representing Transplant Sport NI in Leeds in July 2022, I had came off Chemo in December 2021 and went into remission in April 2022 and pleased to say I am still cancer free; so Leeds came at a good time as I was feeling less lethargic and could increase my training. Not knowing what to expect I went to Leeds and won the games in the Road Race and Time Trial setting the fastest time amongst all the categories and this got me a spot on the GBNI Team for the Worlds. Something that I WOULD train for as it was on the big stage. My recovery is a lot slower than most and especially having a baby’s immune system after transplant, so I was careful not to over train and put myself on a flexible training plan starting in Jan 2023.
I have done the following since the start of the year leading up to the games.
- Duration: 98hrs 20mins / Cycled 81 out of 105 days
- Distance Cycled: 2896km Over one full loop of Ireland / 3 times up and down the length of Ireland
- Climbed: 23925m / 2.7 times up Mt. Everest
- Calories Burned: 58419 / 205 slices of pizza – nom nom
In Perth the races I competed in were the time trial, the race of truth, me against the clock, mind over matter. This was the one I wanted to do best in as it was all about my inner thranness and pushing my limits. All my training paid off and I couldn’t believe how consistent my data was for the 4 laps, there was only 3-5secs difference per lap and I had a personal best power output plus a bronze medal to boot, setting the 3rd fastest time in the world of all the competitors at the games.
Second Race on Monday was the team time trial and this one is all about communication and getting the team round as a 3 man collective. My teammates were from Liverpool, England and Barry, Wales, so a good real mix of accents. There’s a paddy English man, paddy Welsh man and a paddy Irish man joke in there somewhere, but somehow it worked. We destroyed the field by almost 2 mins becoming the World Champions with the Belgans beating the Austrailians by 1 second.
The next day was the 30km Road race, me against the rest of the world in a tactical battle. I spoke with the Australian Perry and Barth the Dutch rider before and we decided we would work together to break away. This plan worked but those guys were much lighter than me and the course was lumpier than I had anticipated so I was burning too many matches and after lap 4 of 12; I decided I wasn’t doing anymore work and to try and hang in the wheels because I was going to blow up. With real bad timing Bart turned round as I made a gasping for air face, they already knew they had to burn me off so it didn’t come to a sprint finish; so when seeing my hurting face they kept applying the pressure on the rises until the elastic snapped in lap 6 and I bid them farewell, leaving me in no mans land but sitting in 3rd place with the 2 French guys chasing hard, so it was just about measuring my effort to not blow up and maintain the gap and that what I did to bring home my 3rd medal.
A super successful first World Transplant Games, here’s to many more I hope, which are thankfully closer, the next being in Dresden, Germany 2025 and then Leuven, Belgium 2027.
I am so very proud of myself and so my takeaway message is there is life after a cancer diagnosis, please have a chat with your family and friends about blood and organ donation. Help others be powered by the gift of life. Spread the word about these amazing games. Just hearing any one of the transplant recipients or donors’ stories is inspiring.
I want to specifically call out some of my sponsors here:
Diaceutics:, my company who’s goal and vision is something that is embedded into my being which is better testing for better treatment for better patient outcomes. www.diaceutics.com Diaceutics support in getting me to the games was amazing, especially the DiaWheel by ezGains designed by the amazing marketing team to make me go faster. I was also using the ezGains aero chainring cover, here is the link: www.ezgains.co.uk to their site and amazing products which I am a massive fan. This year alone I have taken 78secs off my 10mile TT time using their products.
Vitus Bikes: What can I say, the bike is an absolute rocket ship. Thank you so much to Vitus for their amazing support and the ZX-1 Evo. The EVOlution continues. The new Vitus ZX1-Evo. Aero tested, it’s Fast, the rest was up to me and I hope I did the bike and brand proud! www.vitusbikes.com/collections/zx1
Confidential Services Ireland – Shredding Services: who helped sponsor some of the financial costings getting me to Perth. Amazing support and if you need any confidential shredding done you can find them here: www.csi-shred.com
Velo Performance Cycling Coaching: A massive shout out to Simon de Burgh, my coach for listening to me complain about having no time to train or training at stupid o’clock to fit things into an already busy life. Having a coach for these things is such a great tool, being accountable to someone for your training and/or having that cool, calm and collected head just give you the steer at the right time is invaluable. I cannot recommend Si more. Check him out here: www.veloperformance.club
GLF Wax: Darran has been helping me save every last watt, saving me time on cleaning and being kind to the environment. Waxed chains using GLF Wax’s formula of waxes and friction modifiers have helped reduce wear on my components, saving me watts in the process. Until you go to wax you won’t fully understand, plus the smell is amazing. www.glfwax.com
The Bike General: If you’re in the North-West there is no better man than Ciaran for all your bike mechanic needs. His knowledge of bikes and fixing some of the most nuanced, marginal gain issues is second to none. Thank you for all your mechanical help in getting the Evo primed for launch in Perth. http://thebikegeneral.business.site
Foyle Cycling Club: My local club who arranged a charity ride for me with over 50 showing up in awful conditions to show their support for that I am so grateful! https://www.foylecycling.net/
Lastly my main sponsors, my anchors, my real reason for my Thanness and wanting to keep on keeping on. Lisa my wife and Aedan my son. Everything I do is for these amazing humans. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without your support and love. You have been with me every step and pedal stroke of the way, every agonizing appointment, test result, set back but also in celebration of the good news and victories.
About the Games
One of the largest teams in the world will be representing Great Britain and NI at the World Transplant Games 15 – 21 st April 2023. The team has 150 transplant athletes, including ten juniors, six donor and live donors and 50+ supporters. 40% of the team are new members and all the transplant athletes have been selected following their success at this year’s Westfield Health British Transplant Games which took place in Leeds and the European Transplant Games, hosted in Oxford.
Athletes have all survived a heart, lung, kidney, pancreas, liver, small bowel, or bone marrow transplant, and come from all parts of the UK. The World Transplant Games, which works in partnership with the charity Transplant Sport, usually take place every two years and are supported by the International Olympic Committee. Due to the pandemic, the last time the Games took place was 2019 in Newcastle. The sporting event represents the largest organ donor awareness event in the world, featuring a week of 17 sporting events. Team Great Britain and Northern Ireland will join over 1,000 other transplant athletes and live donors from 60 countries across the globe.
More info here: https://worldtransplantgames.org/