This is a remarkable interview with a remarkable young man, Luke Grenfell-Shaw.
Luke is a talented triathlete, cyclist and runner. He's currently cycling a tandem from Bristol to Beijing.
But Luke is also living with Stage IV cancer.
In this uplifting interview, Luke talks about his diagnosis, the words of advice his Dad gave him and what he hopes to achieve through the 23,000km ride.
*How he found out he had cancer after he had recently come 2nd in his first ultra marathon
*Why his parents took his turbo trainer into hospital for him
*How he kept fit throughout his cancer treatment "because the alternative was far worse"
*How he hopes to inspire people, whether living with cancer or not, to live rich and fulfilling lives
*Why it's all about a song from Hamilton the musical!
Like what you heard?
Hamilton the Musical - this is the song Luke mentioned!
Sponsor Luke via his fundraising page! Luke is fundraising for 5K Your Way and Trekstock, charities which help empower CanLivers through exercise, alongside the Teenage Cancer Trust and ClicSargent, which both did so much to support him throughout treatment.
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INTERVIEW TIME LINE* (not the whole episode)
1.00 – How Bristol to Beijing ride came about – 23,000km across 24 countries on a tandem. “The reason I wanted it to be on a tandem is because an experience shared is an experience made real and I wanted this to be the richest experience possible and doing it on a tandem seemed the best way possible. And there is another part to it because on the back of the tandem are other people with a cancer diagnosis, I call these people CanLivers –someone living with cancer. That term encapsulates both the challenges and uncertainties that someone living with cancer will face on a daily basis but also the positive message that you can survive with cancer and this ride is all about showing people what is possible with a cancer diagnosis.
3.30 Talks about being diagnosed with cancer in June 2018, while he was teaching English in Siberia. Prior to his diagnosis, he was in the peak of his health, at peak fitness. He was 24 and he had just done his first ultra marathon, in the Ural mountains. Within 48 hours he was back in the UK for tests and a few weeks later, the doctors told him he had cancer.
5.15 ‘What really blew me away was that it was stage 4 cancer. The primary tumour had spread to my lungs and every certainty and every aspect of this conventional, comfortable life that I had lived just crumbled. And that was an incredibly difficult day. It’s sort of like the bottom of your stomach just sort of flopped out. It’s amazing how words can have such a physiological reaction.
08.20 how he was due to be going to Oxford to do a Masters “But this put all of that into a great deal of uncertainty” and I thought “were I to start Oxford, it would be while I was having chemotherapy and it didn’t seem like a plausible option” but the doctors weren’t sure how I would react.
09.40 Describes what his treatment schedule has been like. “So I had 6 rounds of chemotherapy, which involved being in hospital for 3-4 days at a time. You feel pretty washed out and sick, but I wanted to do everything I could to give myself the best chance of getting through chemo in the best state possible. You are never going to thrive going through chemo, but I wanted to live as much as I could while this was happening.
10.30 Talks about how he trained through his chemo and used the time to travel. How did you do that? “The alternative was worse” I had 4 hours a day when I didn’t have a drip in my arm, but I made sure I went for a walk and that was pretty much all I could do.
12.00 Every time I went into hospital, I cycled my bike in. And I also set my turbo up. It wasn’t about the exercise, but it was about the attitude I was bringing to the situation.
15.00 Luke talks about winning a duathlon the day after finishing his radiotherapy. “It’s an attitude thing. I had my weeks of radiotherapy when I was in Oxford and I made the most of the opportunity to run 7km in and out. When you are in the system and you are termed as a patient, it saps your identity, your autonomy, your ability to be a person and doing exercise was a way to be my own person, taking control of my own life. It was an important way to accept the situation and accept the situation.
16.35 On running the Bristol half marathon 2/3 of the way through chemo… in 80 minutes! Since then, last Autumn, he’s done a 70 minute 10km.
18.30 I’m a reluctant triathlete, because I prefer cycling and running. I did a lot of races at University.
20.00 The difficulty with all of this is that I feel great and I am having a fantastic adventure, and I am in remission, but it doesn’t really mean all that much. With the type of cancer I have, there are no guarantees but so far, I have done a lot better than the doctors thought I would.
20.51 The day I was diagnosed, I went for a run with my Dad and I remember chatting to him and he gave me some advice that meant a lot to me then and I have tried to take it to heart as much as possible. “We can’t control when we die, but we can control how we live today and hopefully how we live tomorrow and that’s what I try to aim to do on each and every day and that’s the most important thing. My personal ethos is not simply wait for opportunities to come along, but proactively go and create the opportunities you want to make your life as rich and fulfilling as possible. So go and create those unique opportunities for yourself, take a risk and do it.
23.00 All I’ve tried to do for myself is live my best life and why wouldn’t you wouldn’t to do that? What wouldn’t you want to have the best, enriching and most fulfilling life you could have? The pressures of society, the expectations of a certain job or salary or position and the fear of stepping away from those comforts or other uncertainties can be a big influencer.
24.30 Talks about the tragic death of his older brother John, who sadly died in an accident in 2018 and Luke explains about a phone call he got at 4am on the final day of his first cycle of
chemotherapy and he found out that his brother had fallen to his death in the Lake District.
Explains that his brother was planning to join him for much of the ride. I’m not doing the ride to remember John or for John, but I know he is with me on the ride.
28.30 Talks about the money he is raising through the ride. “The most important thing is to change the way people live. Of course, I have no control over that, but this is what has worked for me and by having other young people and other Can Livers on the back, that is the clearest way I can think of sending a message saying “If time is short, live your life to the full, these people are doing it and you can too.” Living your life to the full doesn’t mean cycling on a tandem from Bristol to Beijing, it’s unique to each individual. So hopefully it has a positive impact on other people’s lives. But the other thing I am really excited about is to raise money for 4 charities supporting people living with cancer.
We are supporting 4 charities: Clic Sargent, Teenage Cancer Trust, Trek stock and MOVE/5k Your Way.
Exercise is just amazing and it has such a powerful impact on your physical and emotional wellbeing. The resilience you get from exercise helps you withstand the effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy but you know the power of endorphin and it’s an incredible mental boost
31.00 Luke talks about the initial fundraising target being £23,000 , “but we smashed that 15 days in and we are super excited to see where this can go and I say we because it’s a whole team effort”