Belfast Telegraph

NI cancer survivor Adelle takes on BBC challenge in memory of friend she lost to the disease

Adelle Keown from Newtownabbey, with Pudsey Bear
Adelle Keown from Newtownabbey, with Pudsey Bear

By Gillian Halliday

A young Northern Ireland cancer survivor has told how she is determined to travel 400 miles in a rickshaw in memory of her late friend who died from the same disease.

Adelle Keown (17) from Newtownabbey is one of six young people across the UK who will be participating in this year's Rickshaw Challenge for Children in Need.

The Co Antrim teenager appeared live on BBC's The One Show on Wednesday evening along with her team-mates.

The eight-day challenge, led by the programme's presenter Matt Baker, will see the team journey in the passenger cycle cart across Wales - starting in Holyhead - into England, and finishing at BBC Elstree Studios in London.

The end of the challenge, which starts on November 8, will be featured on the annual Children in Need appeal showpiece, which this year airs on November 15.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph after her debut on the show, Adelle reflected on how the loss of her best friend, Victoria, had spurred her on to take up the challenge.

This time last year, Adelle had undergone a bone marrow cell transplant after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia - the same blood disease which claimed Victoria's life in November 2017.

Wishing to protect Victoria's loved-ones' privacy, Adelle withheld her friend's full name, but revealed she was stunned when she learned several months after her late friend's death that she, too, had the same form of leukaemia.

"I was kind of shocked a lot. Victoria had been through it... it was a bit unbelievable," she recalled.

"When I was diagnosed I was in fifth year (at school). At the time I thought that my life was more or less over."

She added: "When I first started (talking about doing the challenge) I thought: I'm doing it for her.

"I want to be able to do this, because Victoria isn't here to do it.

"I also just want to show that cancer doesn't have to take over, that it doesn't have to stop you from doing things."

At one stage, Adelle's doctors were considering giving her palliative care when, after an initial successful round of chemotherapy, her health began to deteriorate.

"At one point they did tell me that there was nothing they could do," she explained.

Despite her illness, Adelle went on to get four GCSEs at Hazelwood Integrated College and is hoping to continue her studies at a later stage.

The aspiring hairdresser said her family - mum, Leanne, dad, Robert, and her twin brother, Aaron (17), 11-year-old brother Carter and older sister Rebecca (21) - will all cheering her on as she embarks on the challenge just a year on from her transplant.

"They've all just said that they're so proud of me," said Adelle, who added that she is also taking part as a way of thanking Northern Ireland charity, Cancer Fund for Children, which offered her support while she was in hospital.

"It's my way of saying thank you, because they kept me up. It's a brilliant charity because you get to meet people going through what we were going through," she explained.

The charity has received a three-year grant from Children in Need to offer residential programmes to young people aged between 12 and 17.

Adelle said she was put forward by the organisation to be one of the participants in this year's Rickshaw Challenge, which is in its ninth year.

This year's route will see the team take on the highest village in the UK, Flash, which lies 1,519ft above sea level in the Peak District, and the steepest street in the world which is in Harlech, Wales.

"I'm really looking forward to it. I am a bit nervous for the hills but I got a bike and have been going to the gym," she revealed.

"My team-mates are great. I already feel close to them."

The reaction from the public since her appearance on The One Show has been incredibly positive, continued Adelle.

"I was really nervous beforehand. But my team-mates are brilliant and we've all been supporting each other. I've already had people sharing, commenting and it's amazing. It's crazy."

  • Adelle's challenge progress can be followed via:

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