Belfast woman Velizara Stoilova cycles 4,000 miles to raise cash for cancer-hit cousin aged 10
A Belfast woman is cycling thousands of miles from Lisbon to Bulgaria to raise vital funds to provide life-saving treatment for her 10-year-old cousin.
Velizara Stoilova was inspired to take on the massive challenge when her cousin Alex was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer - Ewing's sarcoma.
The little girl, who lives in Bulgaria, has already completed five rounds of chemotherapy with one left to go before she has a tumour operation.
But she needs to undergo 10 more chemotherapies, including a stem cell transplant.
Velizara, who started on May 7, is riding 4,000 miles.
Within two months she raised more than £3,000 through a GoFundMe website page. The 27-year-old, originally from Sofia in Bulgaria, has cycled through Seville and Portugal. She explained that Bulgaria's health service doesn't have all the resources for Alex's next stage of treatment so Velizara is raising money to complete her care in a specialised Italian hospital after the operation. Velizara, who has lived in Northern Ireland since 2006, said: "The family wants to carry out these treatments also in the Rizzoli Institute, to give Alex the best chance at beating the cancer.
"Unfortunately the high dose chemo and the blood stem cell transplantation in Rizzoli is not covered by the Bulgarian health service, leaving her parents and the whole family worried about coming up with the many thousands of euro.
"I'm so grateful for all the donations to the GoFundMe page so far and all the support from people on the way - this will truly make a vital difference to Alex's life and future."
- To follow Velizrza's journey visit: www.gofundme.com/fund4alex