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Angela’s getting on her bike (made for two) for charity

24 July 2015


When Angela Morgan was told she had stage 4 cancer 12 years ago, she hardly thought one day she’d be hopping on a specially-imported tandem with her cycling buddy Ian Berry to take part in a 22-mile charity ride.

Angela and Ian, both 42, will be taking part in the annual Foulness Island Bike Ride on Sunday August 30, in aid of Southend Hospital's Keyhole Cancer Appeal.

That the civil servant is able to do so, bicycle made for two or not, is partly due to the prompt care she received at Southend University Hospital to treat a cancer that been developing for up to ten years.

Although apparently healthy and in her prime, Angela had suffered back pain since her middle twenties and spent 'at least two years' shuttling back and forth to her GP but being fobbed off.

"I had an X-ray and examinations but they kept saying there was nothing wrong with me," she recalls.

Angela, from Shoebury, was 29, newly married to Graham, a BBC engineer, when the pain finally became too much. Her GP finally referred her under her health insurance to hospital.

A CT scan and biopsy at the Spire Wellesley revealed a mass in her abdomen, known as a mesenteric fibromatosis, confirmed later by a CT guided biopsy of her spine.

The mass was a secondary cancer to Hodgkin Lymphoma, cancer of the lymphatic system. The stage 4 diagnosis was because, in addition to the mass in her abdomen, the cancer had spread to her spine and ribs.

"I know it sounds odd, but at the time I felt pure relief," Angela recalls. "I knew there was something wrong with me, and had been waiting so long to be taken seriously and for a proper diagnosis so treatment could start.

"When you've had the feeling you were wasting everyone's time - one GP used to roll her eyes when I came into the consulting room - it was actually a weight off my shoulders to have a diagnosis.

"To be fair, I never had any of the usual symptoms of HL, such as weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, and night sweats - just the pain."

After the diagnosis, Angela's care was soon transferred to Southend Hospital. An operation to remove the mass in her abdomen revealed that it was wrapped around her large intestine.

Removing it could have meant a colostomy (more surgery to cut out the intestine that would have resulted in a bag to collect waste products), so oncology consultant Dr Lamont advised an immediate six-month course of chemotherapy.

Incredibly, this had the eventual effect of reducing the tumour in the abdomen to nothing. And, after years of regular check-ups, Angela, a work coach with Southend Jobcentre, was discharged last year.

In fact her recovery - she has been told she is no more or less at risk from a recurrence of cancer than the average person - is something of a minor miracle. "I've been told I feature in a number of case studies," she smiles. "I had been told I had cancer for between five to ten years before diagnosis, so I am grateful I'm still here."

Although Angela's treatment contributed to being unable to have children, living with cancer for all those years taught her and Graham, 45, to make the most of life.

"I used to think 'oh I had better not spend money, or buy things I don't need' but I now think if I want it I can have it' because you never know what is round the corner," she says.

Angela enjoyed cycling and discovered the joys of tandem-ing while on a break to her parent's static caravan in Suffolk with Graham, his cousin Ian and Ian's partner Darran. Angela and Ian took to the bicycle made for two immediately and from there on become bike buddies.

"It was exhilarating, such incredible fun," Angela says. "It is hard for someone like me to take the back seat and let someone else take control but I do a lot of pedalling - and screaming!"

Angela tracked down the perfect cruiser tandem, a luxurious model with wide leather saddles and 'sit up and beg' handlebars. The model was only available in America, so she bought it whilst on holiday in Florida and freighted it back.

Angela and Ian also have a mountain-bike version for Suffolk weekends but it's the Stateside version on which Angela and Ian will be duetting at the Foulness Island Bike Ride.

"The care I received at the hospital was exemplary," Angela explains. "An appeal like this is brilliant. I came out the other side. Equipment like this can help treat and cure other people like the hospital treated and cured me."

To donate, visit Angela's JustGiving page.

The Foulness Island Bike Ride

Proceeds from the ride will be split between the Keyhole Cancer Campaign and Riding for the Disabled.

RDA has 500 groups nationwide, with 28,000 adults and children with learning disabilities taking part on an estimated 450,000 rides on horses, ponies and donkeys.

The Keyhole Cancer Appeal needs to raise £600,000 for new state-of-the-art keyhole theatre at Southend Hospital, which will increase the quality and quantity of a wide variety of surgery.

Keyhole surgery is used for a vast number of operations and is performed through a ½ inch incision or through natural orifices, rather than open surgery. This means a quicker recovery time for patients as well as less pain and a reduced chance of infection.

To find out more about the ride, please call 01702 385337 or visit the Thorpe Bay rotary events website.