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JANE TOMLINSON ~ MBE CBE
I want to share the story of an amazing, courageous British mother-of-three, Jane Tomlinson.
Jane was only 36 when in 2000 she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and the doctors told her she had only six months to live. But in spite of that she showed determination to carry on her life and used it to raise over £1.75 million for charity! She ran marathons and took part in all sorts of other endurance events in order to raise money for the charities.
Jane graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a postgraduate certificate in medical imaging practice in 2002, and carried on work as a radiographer at Leeds General Infirmary through much of her illness.
Whilst I was finding information for this page I had great difficulty compiling a list of what she's done in the past seven years since her diagnosis, there were just SO many events. Did just one person do all this? It's just amazing.
Many completely healthy athletes would have found the list daunting!
* Cycled across America - a distance of over 4,200 miles in 9 weeks.
* Cycled from Rome, Italy to her home in Leeds in England on a tandem ride with her brother covering 2,500 miles in 35 days. Before they set off Jane was blessed by Pope John Paul II.
* Completed 3 London Marathons.
* Completed 3 London Triathlons.
* 2 half-Ironman triathlons.
* 1 York half-marathon (this only 10 days after finishing an intensive course of chemotherapy.)
* With her brother Luke completed a 1,060-mile bike ride from John O'Groats to Land's End.
* In Nov 2004 she went on to run the New York marathon in five hours 15 minutes.
* In 2004 she also became the first terminally-ill person to complete the full Ironman triathlon in Florida.
That's a 17 hour challenge which involves swimming 2.4 miles, completing a 112-mile bike ride and running a full marathon.
Jane has been honored by Queen Elizabeth II with the award of an MBE and a CBE for her work for charity.
She was the winner of the 2002 Women of Achievement Awards in recognition of her courage in running the London Marathon.
In December 2002, she was awarded the Helen Rollason Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year
She came from Leeds in the North of England which is very near where we used to live so over these years we would often hear about her incredible exploits even before she came to world attention.
In 2004 after completing the Florida Ironman competition she announced her retirement from fundraising. But after nearly a year off she was ready for another challenge.
In 2006 she set off on her most gruelling task yet - a 4,200 mile bike ride across North America. Dubbed her Ride Across America. She completed this on time, 6 years to the day, the anniversary of being told by doctors that she had 6 months to live (Sept 1st 2006).
Of course yet again Jane hoped to raise large sums for charity. She said that she wanted to reach her target of raising £2 million.
She was accompanied on the trip by 2 friends from Leeds, Metropolitan University lecturer Ryan Bowd, 27, of Calgary, Canada, and 40-year-old Martyn Hollingworth, of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.
And what was it that Jane found most daunting when thinking about the trip?
"I've read people's accounts of these sort of cycle rides and they say they've met quite a number of dogs. And as they're ranch types of dogs, they're meant to lope along after you for mile after mile."
"I'm not looking forward to that and I'll be relying on Ryan to show them a bit of leg."
"I'm not frightened of the physical challenge, I'm frightened because of the unpredictability of animals. I think a big dog baying towards me would make my whole body turn to jelly."
There were some bad moments with dogs on the trip but Jane and her companions managed to keep them from doing any harm.
Unfortunately the ride across America wasn't given anywhere near the publicity it deserved and Jane didn't raise as much money for charity as she'd hoped so if you can afford to help click here
I've just finished reading Jane & Mike's account of their life and how it has been
affected by cancer. It's one of the most moving and honest
books I've ever read.
Called "The Luxury of Time"
by Jane & Mike Tomlinson Published by Pocket
Books in the UK.
What struck me whilst reading the book is that the remarkable thing about Jane wasn't that she was something special (well she
was in some ways!). What was so remarkable about her is that she was an
ordinary young woman with a family and suddenly was diagnosed with cancer at
the age of 26. She went through the treatments and everything and reacted
like anyone else. She suffered a lot. Then she was told her condition was terminal and she almost
gave in to despair along with her husband and family. But somehow she
fought through it all and started running and then found she could raise
money for cancer charities and that kept her going. Her family have been
just marvellous and suffered through it all with her.
Anyone who goes through cancer treatments is a hero in my opinion and the
families who support them are heroes too.
I think it's inspiring that someone has used something which could be depressing and make many people give up hope, as a way of making life better for others.
Paula Radcliffe the World Marathon record holder has named Jane as her own most inspirational sportswoman. She said "Jane is remarkable. Her decision to ride the 2,500 miles from Rome to Leeds while suffering from terminal cancer was quite astonishing . It just underscores her qualities as a true champion of life."
Sadly Jane lost her battle against cancer on Monday 3rd September 2007 but her memory will live on. Her legacy is that she changed many people's views of what a person with cancer can achieve. She was also much loved and served as an inspiration to everyone.