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Back in the saddle and raising money for ‘Women v Cancer’

“I won’t be the fastest, nor the fittest, and definitely not the youngest – but I will give it my all.”

Julia Smith, our Regional Nurse Manager for the South West, will be participating in the ‘Women v Cancer Cycle Kenya 2021’ in October next year – a wild and challenging 6-day cycle ride from the foothills of Mount Kenya to Kisumu. Julia and her fellow cyclists will encounter much of Kenya’s wildlife along the way, including elephants, giraffes, gazelles, impala, and buffalo!

Celebrating their 10th anniversary, Women v Cancer are on a mission to raise £3 million for three very important women’s cancer charities, Breast Cancer Now, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and Ovarian Cancer Action.

Julia Smith cycling in the countryside

Many years ago, Julia’s partner lost his wife to breast cancer leaving him to raise 2 young children. Having previously visited Kenya on holiday, and, having witnessed the enduring pain and struggles connected to losing someone with breast cancer, when an advert for the challenge popped up on Julia’s Facebook feed, the advert “touched a nerve”. As Julia says: “in a moment of spontaneity, I signed up!”

Julia taught herself to ride a bike when she was about 6 years’ old, but once she outgrew it, she never had another – until 2014 that is. Following surgery on her knee and using an exercise bike in the gym to aid her recovery, she soon decided to buy her first adult bike at the age of 53.

Julia soon fell in love with cycling, and feeling adventurous, upgraded her trusty steed for a properly measured bike. In October 2015 whilst cycling home, she was on the last downhill section, and “being far too cocky, going at 28mph on the wrong side of the bend” Julia met a car coming the other way.  Julia got back on the bike but losing her confidence and with the bad winter weather, she stopped cycling until the following spring. Shortly after she became unwell and it was not until last year that she was diagnosed with Lupus.

Now back firmly in the saddle, Julia says “To cycle across Kenya will be a personal challenge for me as I  do not cope well in the heat, and am fairly new to cycling, but it would not be worth it if it was easy. Hopefully, I will not have to cycle faster than a hungry lion or a rampaging elephant can run, just faster than the last lady in the group! [….] Whatever lies ahead I will be hot, saddle-sore, weary, and much more but, if I can achieve my goal it will be worth it. I have spent my adult life in nursing so this will be just another way to do the only other thing I know how to do.”

Julia Smith and fellow cyclists at the start of a race

Julia is a registered nurse and has 40 years’ experience, including working in Spinal Injuries Nursing and Prison Health. She is no stranger to fundraising and, in the past, has set up and organised a sponsored canoe for ‘Back Up’, a spinal injuries charity. Whilst 7 months pregnant, Julia, with some fellow SI individuals, meandered their way down the River Severn and raised enough to buy a ski bob for tetraplegic men and women.

We wish Julia every success with her new fundraising challenge, and if you would like to help by sponsoring this event please go to her JustGiving page. Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast, and totally secure, and once you donate, they will send your money directly to the charity.

Well done Julia – keep peddling!!!


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