Shillong, April 6: 30,000 km, 30 countries and a 28-year-old man on a noble mission on three wheels. The journey of Luke Grenfell-Shaw can inspire a filmmaker or an author. But for now, the young cyclist from Bristol in the United Kingdom is inspiring hundreds of lives scarred by cancer.
In common parlance, Luke is a cancer survivor. But he refuses to accept the phrase as it “suggests a sense of victory, of security, that you have beaten cancer”.
“The reality of having cancer is that the challenges and uncertainties each individual – and their family and friends – faces will never end,” he writes in one of his blogposts.
So, he coined the term ‘CanLiver’, which means an individual living with cancer, facing uncertainty and challenge on a daily basis, yet acknowledging they can still live a rich and full life. The bespectacled young man is travelling from Bristol to Beijing sharing this elixir of life.
Luke has already covered 29 countries, including Ukraine, beginning January 2020. He arrived in Meghalaya last week and left for Guwahati on April 5.
“I will try to reach the China border and from there take a flight to Beijing,” he said. He will be accompanied by his friend Thomas Lowe till the Indo-China border.
Luke was diagnosed with stage 4 sarcoma on June 19, 2018. He was only 24. Though the medical experts’ words were barely encouraging, he chose to ignore them and decided to live life on his own terms. The cyclist & motivational speaker told Meghalaya Monitor that he would walk and do indoor cycling for four hours every day during his treatment. While many would give up on life after a series of chemotherapy sessions, Luke reinvented life.
“Everyone must know that exercise is really effective when one is undergoing chemotherapy. Through my journey, I want to tell people that cancer is not the end and one does not necessarily have to lie on bed waiting for death. Cancer is not death sentence and I am hoping that my trip will provide a source of hope to people with cancer,” he said.
“When I was diagnosed, I thought I would die of cancer. But we can always choose the way we live,” he added.
Luke is doing tandem biking on his three-wheeled cycle, which includes the bicycle trailer. The bike was specially made for the journey and weighs 60 kg. He calls the bike Chris after his brother who passed away during the time when Luke was undergoing treatment.
Between Bristol and India, the cyclist was joined by 300 CanLivers and well-wishers who supported his cause and many of them travelled with him for hundreds of kilometres.
When asked about his co-passengers, Luke particularly mentioned about Dev, a 17-year-old boy who joined him in Chandigarh and travelled till Varanasi.
“He is a real inspiration. Dev was diagnosed with cancer when he was two years old. When I met him in jeans and a jumper, Dev hadn’t cycled for two years. I thought he would get tired in two hours. But he stayed with me for 1000 km. It was amazing,” he recollected.
About his India visit, Luke said he met several locals who helped him see the country closely. In Meghalaya, Luke and Thomas stayed at Langkawet in Pynursla. The heavy rain and landslide caught the bikers unawares when they were travelling to Shillong.
“Luke had to lift his bike up to cross the slush and debris that blocked the road after the landslide,” said Thomas.
Despite his health condition, Luke embarked on the cross-country journey amid the pandemic. He said the pandemic made it a lot more complicated as there were border closures and he had to seek special permissions in 10 countries and undergo PCR tests numerous times. Permission to get into China was the most difficult.
“From a health perspective, I was not worried because I knew there were risks. At 24 when you are perfectly healthy, then bad things can happen. So, health was not a concern. All I wanted was to live a life full of rich experiences. I also saw how people still want human connection. In so many countries, people just came and hugged me,” he smiled.
According to the National Cancer Registry Programme’s 2020 data, Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills has the highest tobacco-related cancer cases in the state and the second highest in the country. This makes Luke’s journey even more inspiring and important in this part of the country.
Thomas is part of the Bristol2Beijing team, which includes Luke’s parents, that has volunteered to support the journey. In the past two years, B2B has received overwhelming support from all over the world. The team is also collecting donations for cancer patients in India as well as Bristol. So far, it has collected over £ 100,000. One can visit Bristol2Beijing.org to extend support to the cause.
For Luke, life is not about despair. In fact, it is a journey that is enriching and fulfilling. “I have a huge appreciation for life now, and through this trip, I want to tell people that not everything is over with cancer,” he concluded.