It’s not every day that you encounter something that really moves you. And then when you do, you naturally want to tell the world about it. What you’re about to read is a story of courage, and my small part of that journey started when I ran into an old friend in April last year.
It was lunchtime, and I was sipping on a latte with a colleague, when from across the room I saw a childhood friend I knew years ago. After some umming and arring I decided to approach him and sure enough, it was my friend Nikola who I’ve known forever yet hadn’t seen in years.
After much surprise and disbelief that the world really is a small place, after all, we both grew up in Sydney and had found ourselves working in Canberra across the road from one another, Nikola proceeded to tell me of this crazy idea he had to cycle from Canberra to Sydney with his twin brother, Jovan. To make matters worse he wanted to coerce my little brother and another friend to make this long and potentially dangerous trip with them. I was astounded ‘How can you possibly do that? Have you ever seen cyclists riding to Canberra on the Hume Highway?’ You’re crazy! I protested.
Three weeks after our meeting in the coffee shop, Nikola told me that his twin brother Jovan had just been diagnosed with Stage 3 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma—an incurable form of cancer. I was shocked. There was Jovan, 25 years of age, non-smoker, no family history of cancer, happens to be an elite athlete having represented Australia in judo—diagnosed with Australia’s number one blood cancer, Lymphoma.
Before I had too much of a chance to think Nikola told me that their crazy idea of cycling to Canberra from Sydney was now going to become a fundraising and an awareness-raising initiative for Lymphoma Australia. They would have support vehicles and a fundraising page and they would make our mark in the fight against Lymphoma! The ride now started to make sense.
The inaugural ride in May 2011 saw 17 cyclists and a small support crew endure the winter cold and cycle the 330km to Canberra. Travelling through Mittagong and Goulburn they pedalled away until they reached the bright lights of Parliament House. For their efforts they raised $28 000 for Lymphoma Australia, an organisation that provides Lymphoma education, patient and family support, as well as fundraising events for Lymphoma research.
Jovan rode all the way to Canberra despite his diagnosis and pending treatment. It was his spirit, courage and determination that made me take time out of my ‘busy’ life to help promote the Opera2Parliament bike ride and its cause.
This brings me to 2012. On 27 April the steps of Sydney’s Opera House will mark the start of the Opera2Parliament three-day bike ride for Lymphoma Australia. This year we have 45 cyclists—more than double that of last year’s effort and we now have a larger support crew.
The team will once again endure all of the elements that Mother Nature throws their way, including irate motorists, traffic and some impressive hills… to arrive at Parliament House in Canberra on Sunday 29 April at approximately 4.30 pm.
Riding with us this year is the host of The X Factor, Luke Jacobz, and we have NRL player Jamie Simpson, who is also a Lymphoma patient, coming along as part of the support crew.
This year we’re also lucky enough to have Ms Gai Brodtmann MP, who is Federal Member for Canberra, present certificates to our riders for their efforts.
For my efforts, I have been promoting the ride and am very grateful, on behalf of the Opera2Parliament team, to Mamamia for allowing our story to be read by her wonderful community.
We’ve already raised more than $35 000 and are encouraging those that can donate a little, or a lot, to do so here.
You can follow our journey via our Facebook page. Don’t forget to ‘like’ the page too!
And if you’re wondering, Jovan is riding once again and certainly isn’t letting Lymphoma get the better of him!
We’ll see you on the road!
Biljana Wenning is a communications professional who volunteers her spare time to Lymphoma Australia. Biljana is on Twiter @BiljanaMW