8 November 2023

A patient cared for at the Trust which runs the county’s two acute hospitals has cycled 340 miles from Pisa to Rome to raise money for Myeloma UK.

Jo Coombes, 55, from Hinstock in Shropshire, was diagnosed with myeloma three years ago at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), after experiencing a sharp pain whilst riding her bike.

She said: “In July 2020 I was out on my bike when a car came out at me from nowhere, causing me to brake really suddenly. I felt an excruciating pain in my sternum which proceeded to get worse as I continued to cycle, so I called my husband to pick me up.

“The next day I went to A&E to get checked. Not only had I fractured my sternum, but doctors found multiple fractures in my ribs and shoulders too.

“After various tests and scans, three days later I was told I had an incurable blood cancer that I knew nothing about. It was a total shock to me and my family.

“Looking back now, I was experiencing symptoms like fatigue and rib pain, but as a keen runner and cyclist I put this down to all the exercise I was doing. Things moved quickly once I had my diagnosis, and within a week of the bike ride I was having chemotherapy for myeloma.”

Jo has been receiving care from the team at the Haematology Unit at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, which she is full of praise for.

She said: “The team has been absolutely amazing and I cannot thank them enough. They took me under their wing from the start and have continued to look after me so well.

They have guided me through every milestone, step by step, and offered me so much support.”

Bridget Atkins, Haematology Specialist Nurse, said: “Jo is an inspirational patient who has been through an incredibly difficult time, but has shown unbelievable strength and determination throughout. Her positive outlook on life is infectious and she is proof that you can still achieve so much whilst living with myeloma.”

Determined to keep moving, Jo got back on her bike in September 2022 and cycled from London to Paris.

Twelve months later she took on her toughest cycling challenge yet, riding 340 miles from Pisa to Rome in Italy.

Together with 35 others, Jo completed the formidable distance – the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest – in four days. The group has raised £98,000 for Myeloma UK and has set its sights set on reaching £100,000.

Jo added: “People might think I’m crazy for doing it, but it was the best experience. It was definitely a shock to the system but somehow it got easier as I went along.

“My message to anyone living with myeloma, or any other illness, is not to wait around for something bad to happen. You’ve got a life worth living.

“We need more research into myeloma, but progress in science gives me hope for a cure and I’ll keep cycling for as long as I’m able to!”

Myeloma is a type of blood cancer arising from plasma cells that affects approximately 5,700 people each year in the UK.

To learn more about Jo’s fundraising efforts and to donate to Myeloma UK, please visit her JustGiving page.