Cancer battle pensioner Colin Hendersonto cycles 400km in epic effort for charities
A Lisburn man who beat cancer along with his wife and daughter is saddling up to raise funds for three charities close to his heart.
Colin Henderson (70) is undertaking a significant personal challenge by cycling 400km around Northern Ireland in just 24 hours.
The retired youth officer for the South Eastern Education and Library Board is raising awareness and vital money for Pancreatic Cancer Action, the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund and Fibromyalgia Action UK.
He is also embarking on the gruelling challenge to pay tribute to his late friend Bill Wilson, former head of mathematics at Wallace High School in the city.
Losing Bill to pancreatic cancer in November 2013 made Colin all too aware of the signs and symptoms of this unforgiving disease and led to his own early diagnosis.
But he isn't the only member of his immediate family to have faced a brush with cancer.
Back in 1999 his wife Joan was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
She had been suffering with pain in her neck and was getting no relief despite regular physiotherapy sessions.
A scan showed that a tumour had grown on her spinal cord, shattering some of her vertebrae.
Joan (68) was a primary school teacher but had to retire because her head is now held up with steel plates, which means that she can only move from her shoulders and waist.
She had several gruelling months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy before being given the all-clear by doctors.
The couple were elated that Joan had beaten the disease, but found themselves in despair again in April 2017 when their daughter Jenny Dalzell discovered a lump in her breast at the age of 35.
A mammogram confirmed their worst fears - cancer had once again visited their family.
Jenny was operated on and able to finish her follow-up treatment, but she also suffers from fibromyalgia, a condition which has a major impact on her life.
However, the day in October 2017 that Jenny finished her treatment wasn't one of family celebration, as that same day Colin began treatment for pancreatic cancer.
The active grandfather-of-four hadn't been feeling well and noticed that he'd been rapidly losing weight.
Colin and Joan were in Scotland visiting their other daughter Clare Tayler when he was told to go back to his GP.
A stunned Colin was immediately admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital where doctors discovered a tumour on his pancreas which was blocking a bile duct.
He had surgery to remove parts of his stomach, small intestine and pancreas, which also eliminated the tumours.
After receiving chemotherapy in tablet form, Colin battled back and is now fighting fit as he prepares for his 'Dawn to Dusk' challenge by taking on a 400km cycle in 24 hours.
"I had originally planned to complete the ride on the longest day, June 21st, but due to recent medical problems linked to my pancreatic cancer I will complete it over two days this week but within 24 hours," he explained.
"The cycle will start in Newry on Thursday at lunchtime when I hope to have completed approximately a third of the distance to Portaferry for an overnight.
"Starting at 5am on Friday I will then follow the coastline through Bangor, Belfast, Larne, Ballycastle, Portrush, Coleraine, Limavady and Derry.
"I will be making a decision at Carnlough if I am fit enough to continue to Derry.
"If not, I will complete the ride the next day, but hopefully the cumulative time will be under 24 hours.
"I'm disappointed that I won't be able to complete it in a day but medically this isn't possible.
"The venture will represent my cancer journey as I will be the only person riding the full distance.
"Cancer is a solo journey supported by family and friends but I will have this support during the cycle, my wife and daughter, who both have had cancer."
Colin's current fundraising has reached over £6,000 and anyone wishing to still donate can visit his page at https://uk.virginmoney giving.com/ColinHenderson11