By Bejay Browne
A JUBILANT recovering cancer patient arrived to a warm welcome from well wishers at Paphos harbour after completing a three day charity solo cycle ride, which saw him battle torrential rain.
Julian Buckland, 58, completed a 360 km three-day east to west ride across Cyprus to raise funds and awareness for the Friends hospice in Paphos. Sponsorship pledges are still coming in, but the Paphos resident believes he has so far raised more than €2,500 for the facility.
Buckland, who likes to be called ‘Jay’, had a kidney removed a few months ago when a routine operation revealed a cancerous tumour.
He said: “It was a real shock as I had no idea I had cancer. There was no illness, no sign whatsoever. I went into a real dark mental place when I was given the news.”
Luckily for the keen cyclist just three hours after being diagnosed with cancer, his kidney was successfully removed and he seems to have made a full recovery.
“Many people have to live with the knowledge that they have cancer for years, I only had to go through that for three hours. I am very fortunate.”
He added: “This all happened four months ago and a month after my operation I was back in the saddle again. I love cycling – especially off road – and have ridden a bike for as long as I can remember.”
Buckland was an avionics engineer in the army in the 1980s and spent the last 17 years in Saudi Arabia working for British Aerospace. He took early retirement and moved permanently to Cyprus five and a half years ago. He said his speedy recovery was greatly helped by his generally good fitness level.
He had already made the decision to undertake the sponsored ride to raise money for the hospice, as a number of family members and friends had been affected by the disease before he was diagnosed.
“I decided I would try to raise some money to help them in the good work they do for the community. I can’t cure this awful disease but by supporting the Friends Hospice I can help to alleviate the pain it brings to so many.”
Buckland started set off on the mountain bike journey from Cape Apostolos Andreas in the east, on to Kyrenia and then to Polis before his descent across the Akamas to Peyia and finally to Kato Paphos, where he arrived at the harbour on Sunday afternoon.
He clocked average speeds of about 30 kilometres an hour on the bike loaned to him by the Ride Easy shop in Paphos.
“The worst part of the journey was when I was caught in almost non-stop torrential rain,” he said. “At times, visibility was down to just a few metres and the Akamas was awash with red mud, making it hard to peddle.”
Buckland’s wife José and a number of friends accompanied him along the way, travelling close by in support vehicles to ensure his health and safety.
Crowds of well-wishers and tourists gathered at the harbour finish line to cheer him along the last part of his east-west trip across the island.
The brave cyclist is hoping to be given the all clear following a new scan scheduled for the end of the month.
The money raised is in aid of the Friends hospice in Paphos which opened in 2006 and offers palliative and respite care to people suffering with life limiting illnesses and their families. Around 1,000 patients have been helped so far.