Belfast Telegraph

Anna McAllister's dad cycling around Ireland in memory of daughter who battled brain tumour

A father is undertaking the challenge of cycling a circuit of Ireland in eight days in tribute to his daughter who passed away almost three years ago from a brain tumour.

Randal McAllister from Kilrea in Co Londonderry will cycle 1,200km passing through all 32 counties of Ireland in memory of his daughter Anna, to raise funds for two charities, Cancer Fund for Children and the Children’s Cancer Unit Charity.

Anna McAllister, a former student at Loreto College in Coleraine, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in March 2013 when she was 15 years old.  Following her diagnosis, she underwent major brain surgery, multiple courses of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, stem cell transplants and emergency surgeries. 

Sadly on September 19 2014, aged just 16 years old, Anna passed away after a heroic fight to overcome her cancer.

It is fitting that the challenge takes place during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness of the devastating impact of childhood cancer on families.

Randal, along with friends Paul Donnelly and Brian Calvert will begin the All Ireland Cycle Challenge on Saturday September 9 at 'Daisy Lodge', the Cancer Fund for Children's short break centre in Newcastle, Co Down at 10am. The Cycle will finish on Saturday 16 at Anna's home just outside Kilrea. 

Speaking about when Anna was first diagnosed, Randal said: "Anna's diagnoses was totally devastating for our personal family circle, for her close friends and all those who knew and loved Anna.

"She was a strong and pragmatic girl who showed great strength of character during the events that followed her diagnoses. Anna's condition was extremely severe and required very aggressive treatments to try and combat the brain tumour."

Randal said the treatments Anna was receiving along with her illness had "debilitating effects on her life".

"It left her unable to walk from an early stage and also severely affected her normal motor skills. Basic things that we take for granted like holding a knife and fork, holding and writing with a pen, putting on makeup as Anna loved to do very much, therefore robbing her of therefore her teenage independence and leaving her totally dependant on others to do the most basic day to day things for her."    

"After the chemotherapy and Radiotherapy Anna lost her beautiful long hair. I think she personally found this was the most difficult event to deal with. After losing everything else and suffering operations and severe cancer treatments, her beautiful hair which she valued so dearly was gone and and it never did return."

Randal added: "From the start Anna's treatment was fraught with problems and complications that led to many emergency operations and admissions into intensive care. Her determination to overcome her illness and survive has been an inspiration to everyone who knew her and has led to many fundraising events taking place in her name.

Both charities played a vital role during Anna's illness and treatment. Randal said now that they have gone through the terrible event of his daughter's illness and death, he "recognises the the significant importance of both charities to other families facing a childhood diagnosis."

"The All Ireland Cycle Challenge is just a continuation of the 'Anna effect' whilst we keep her memory very much to the fore," said Randal.

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