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Family Rally together to Ride over the charred Cape Peninsula

On 8 March 2015, 12 members of one family, from four continents, cycled the Cape Town Cycle Tour to celebrate the life of Richard Sheen. Richard (34), from Castle Combe, died on 23 June 2014 in the Royal United Hospital Bath, after a short illness. The family raised funds towards The Forever Friends Appeal’s RUH Cancer Care Campaign, as a way of saying thank you for the excellent medical care he received during his three month stay in the Intensive Therapy Unit.

Richard knew he was dying after a very late diagnosis of an aggressive Bowel Cancer and said he was too young to be planning his own funeral. Even though he was terribly sick, he made it clear that if his experience raised awareness and help save the lives of any of his family and others in the future, then it would have been worthwhile.  Richard died of the same Cancer that took his Uncle Mark, 15 years earlier, also at a very young age.

At his bedside the family promised him that they would do something to celebrate his life and decided to participate in the Cape Town Cycle Tour, his home town, whilst supporting the hospital that gave him such wonderful care, support and kindness by the amazing staff he called his ‘Angels’. Richard was very touched by the idea,  as at times during his treatment there was a glimmer of hope that he too would be able to return to Cape Town for his last months, but is was never possible.

The 110 kilometre event is billed as the “World’s largest timed cycle race” and had British Cyclist, Mark Cavendish as the guest rider. The family gathered, from UK, USA, Australia and South Africa in March for the final training rides. Some were regular cyclists; others had not been on a bicycle for 40 years!

Unfortunately, the Cape peninsula was hit by devastating bush fires, as the strong winds fanned the fire from one ocean to the other. The organisers took the decision to cancel the event and replace it with a truncated 50 kilometre solidarity ride in tribute to the fire fighters who had spent days and days fighting the fires. It was a disappointing outcome, but the family still took the opportunity to pay tribute and remember Richard and Mark, and also the bravery of the fire fighters in what was a very special event.

Wendy Sheen, Richard’s mother was tearful as she mourned the loss of her son and celebrated the gift of his short life, she said “It was a fitting tribute and I hope Rich was staring down on us and smiling.” Richard loved ‘the angels’ at the RUH Bath and as a family we are extremely grateful for the quality of care provided by the NHS when he was at his most vulnerable.”

Jan Witt, In Memory & Legacy Officer for the Forever Friends Appeal comments “We cannot thank Richard’s family enough for  their bravery and commitment for taking on such a big challenge at a very difficult time in their lives. What they achieved in Richard’s memory is absolutely incredible and their support towards the RUH Cancer Care Campaign will make a huge difference to patients suffering from cancer now and in the future.”

Richard’s father, John Sheen continues, “Even though we could not participate in the full event , all the training we did for it just means we will have to do the real thing next year.”

In the process, the family raised over £1,500 for the new Cancer Unit so that others like Richard and Mark can have the best possible care in their time of need.

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