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Marlow Red Kite Ride - How YOUR Pedal Power Can Change Lives this September

by Nick Gregory

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On the face of it the Dunwoody family, from Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire, are an ordinary, happy, hard-working and close knit family. But ten years ago, in August 2005, their world was turned upside down when three year-old, Niamh was rushed to hospital having been diagnosed with a brain tumour. 

"We knew that something wasn't right beforehand," said mum, Helen. "It turned out that the tumour was the size of a golf ball." Dad, Dave, added: "We recognised that she had some problems with her balance. She just kept bumping into things." 

"Initially it was misdiagnosed and it wasn't until she had a CAT scan that the tumour was revealed. Suddenly Niamh was taken straight to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford for surgery," said Helen. 

The surgery removed the initial tumour but Niamh had lost her speech and her ability to walk. She would have to learn critical life skills all over again. Four sessions of chemotherapy and 31 sessions of radiotherapy followed over a six month period in order to stop the cancer spreading. 

The treatment had severely reduced Niamh's immune system so she had to be kept away from all possible infections. But on one of the visits to hospital Niamh contracted an infection which left her very ill. But it was to be the turning point in her recovery, a recovery that is ongoing as she continues to fight the effects of such a trauma at a young age.

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Niamh is now 13 and a happy and confident child, but due to the area of the tumour she still has coordination and balance problems and goes to a special needs school in nearby Beaconsfield. "She never complains. She just accepts everything. She never asks why she doesn't have any hair - in fact she wants to become a hairdresser! "added Helen. 

Recovery has sometimes seemed painfully slow, but one of the big steps Niamh took was when she was nine and received a gift of a specially adapted tricycle from the charity Cyclists Fighting Cancer. Niamh loved it and it suddenly became a gift of a new found freedom. 

"We couldn't believe it when we got the call. Mike from the charity came down with it. It was so special to see our little child going up and down the road on her first bike," said Helen. "Now, suddenly she had some independence. She had confidence. It helped her from a physical point of view." 

Mike Grisenthwaite is the founder and CEO of Cyclists Fighting Cancer, a charity dedicated to helping children and young people across the UK whose lives have been affected by cancer by providing specially adapted bikes and tricycles. 

He said: "Niamh couldn't wait to get going as soon as we arrived. It's rewarding to see the simple effect of what a difference it can make to children's lives. We've now delivered 2,500 of these bikes or trikes and they do make a difference. Hundreds of studies have shown the numerous benefits cancer survivors receive from exercising."

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Niamh eventually outgrew her beloved trike, but due to the efforts of all those who entered last year's Marlow Red Kite Ride she was able to receive a new larger trike from Cyclists Fighting Cancer earlier this year. 

It has allowed the family to plan for summer trips to parks and quieter roads where Niamh can continue to build her strength and fitness. Helen added: "We're so grateful to everyone who entered last year's Red Kite Ride and for supporting this wonderful charity. We hope that other little children will be able to benefit from the efforts of this year's event." 

Last year the Red Kite Ride raised £5,000 for Cyclists Fighting Cancer and charity will again be the beneficiary of profits from this year's event. 

The Marlow Red Kite Ride will be held on Sunday September 6 and offers riders a choice of four routes over the Chilterns and Thames Valley with 50, 80, 100 and 126 mile routes. 

Organised by local cycling club, Marlow Riders, the event has sold out for the last three years in a row, so capacity this year is being increased to 700. However, the entry fee remains a very generous £25. 

For more details and to enter visit http://marlowredkiteride.co.uk/.





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