An Exeter woman is set to tackle an epic 600-mile cycle challenge to support the charity which helped her as a teenager following cancer treatment.
Roisin Smith, now aged 23, will take part in the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust’s Largs to Cowes 'Brighter Futures' Cycle Challenge across eight days in June (Fri 17 – Fri 24) from the west of Scotland to England’s south coast.
Currently living in Exeter and working as a graduate intern at not-for-profit energy consultancy Regen, Roisin first sailed with the Trust aged 19, just a few months out of three years of treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma - a trip which gave her a much-needed confidence boost before starting university.
As Roisin explains: “It was difficult being asked what I had done in my gap year, when what I had been doing was not travelling or adventuring but having life-saving treatment. Spending that time with the Trust in Largs, sailing with other young people who had also experienced cancer, gave me perspective and made me feel less alone.”
The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust inspires young people aged 8-24 to believe in a brighter future living through and beyond cancer. For many young people, picking up where they left off before their diagnosis isn’t possible. So, when treatment ends, the Trust’s work begins.
Through the Trust’s sailing and outdoor activities, young people meet others who have had similar experiences, rediscover independence away from home, experience an increased sense of purpose and self-worth, and begin to realise what they are capable of again. Most importantly they stop feeling like the ‘only one’.
Following a Geography degree at Durham and MSc at Imperial in London, Roisin asked the Trust about becoming a volunteer, which saw her completing a second sailing trip, from Cowes in 2021, and remembering why the trips are so important to young people recovering from cancer.
Roisin said: “When you’re undergoing treatment, you kind of expect that once you finish, you’ll be back to normal. In reality, it takes a really long time to find that sense of normality and it is something that I still struggle with sometimes even four years on. The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust trips have given me the chance to share my experiences with people who get it because they’ve lived it as well.
“Cancer can be a soul-destroying experience at any age, but especially when you’re young. Once it’s over, there is an expectation that you get on with your life – but how? It’s hard to put into words exactly the effect that these trips have had on me, but each time I have been, I have left feeling such warmth and gratitude. I believe recovery from cancer is a continuous journey, but I know that I wouldn’t be in anywhere near as good a place without the amazing people and adventures that make up the offering of the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust.”
The gruelling 'Brighter Futures' Cycle Challenge, between the Trust’s bases in Largs and Cowes, will see participants cycling 75-80 miles each day. The picturesque route takes in some physically demanding ascents as it passes through areas such as the Lake District on the way to the Isle of Wight.
In preparation, Roisin has joined a local gym and is getting out and about on her bike. Describing her cycling level as that of an ‘enthusiastic rookie’, she is determined to complete all 600 miles and adds: “I am looking forward to the challenge of pushing myself, sharing this experience with some amazing people and maybe getting to glance at the scenery of our glorious country every so often!”
When Roisin is asked what she wants to achieve from completing the challenge, she concludes: "One, that I have just cycled 600 miles, two that more young people are going to get the chance to recover from cancer, three that I’m a part of this amazing charity who I will hopefully be able to continue to support."
To support Roisin on her incredible Largs to Cowes challenge and read more about how she will impact young people living through and beyond cancer, visit https://largs-to-cowes.blackbaud-sites.com/ or go to Roisin's JustGiving page at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Roisin-Smith6