Virginia Beckett is 52 and lives in Glasgow. She has been through breast cancer and a partial mastectomy. She has started a new job and is cycling Dulux Trade London Revolution in 2018 as part of her quest to get fit again.
When were you first diagnosed with cancer?
I was diagnosed in March 2016. I had a partial mastectomy in May that year followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. My treatment finished in December that year. I had a minor further operation in August 2017 and a one-year post-cancer clear mammogram in June 2017 which, as you can imagine, was an important milestone.
I was a keen cyclist before my diagnosis and my surgeon got so bored of me asking whether I could go back on my bike that I think he eventually capitulated just to get rid of me! I cycled during my chemo treatment. I just avoided the weeks when I was at my worst. I felt that the fresh air and exercise gave me a great boost, and where possible I took the opportunity while I was off work to travel around Scotland to cycle to places like Aviemore and the islands of Colonsay, Islay.
I actually found that although it seemed innocuous at the time, the radiotherapy had a greater impact on my energy for cycling than the chemo did.
What’s your new job? How did that come about?
Having worked for a major firm of property advisers for 20 years, the opportunity arose to work client side for a Property Investment business. Although it seemed like a huge step after such a long time and from a secure long-term job, I felt that it was the right time for a change and my instinct told me it was a great opportunity to take up a new challenge. I have found that my post-cancer approach to many areas of life is more relaxed and I adopt a “what is the worst that can happen” attitude to new challenges.
“From experience I know that you need a target to aim for”
Can you tell me a bit more about deciding to get fit?
My desire to get fit is more about getting fit again. In addition to the obvious impacts of chemo and radiotherapy, the long-term use of Letrazole (which is like Tamoxifen) and the impact of the operation mean that my joints tend to be painful and I am less flexible than I was. I am not prepared to accept that as a long-term situation and I know that exercise is the key. I like to combine cycling with yoga for
Why cycling? What does it do for you now?
I used to run to keep fit and lose weight and although I always wanted to enjoy it I never quite got there. Then I found cycling and realised I could get fit and lose weight in the company of friends and enjoy a day in the fresh air in the beautiful Scottish countryside.
Had you done any sport before?
I used to be a ski racer in my teens and twenties but gave up when I started work full time after graduating from university. I was used to having to train to keep fit for skiing so am used to the discipline needed to keep going when it gets tough. Much of my skiing was in Scotland and that is tough in itself!
You’ve just been to Burma. Do you have other cycling plans this year?
The trip to Burma was a deferred 50th birthday present to myself. This has been the first time since my diagnosis that I could commit to a trip of that nature. It was relatively easy cycling although hillier than you might expect. We covered about 300 miles over the two weeks so it has definitely been a stepping-stone to getting fit for next May. The highlight of the trip was being able to travel through the countryside and get up close to people who had probably never seen a European in real life before. Some of the roads were not accessible by car or bus. The kids (and adults!) would come out of their homes to line the road, shouting and waving to us as we cycled through hilltop villages.
I cycled from Madrid to Lisbon in 2014. We covered 529 miles and climbed 29,000 feet in five days. It was pretty gruelling as, even though it was May, it was sleeting in the Sierra De Grados and we got very cold and wet. My partner and I raised nearly £3,000 for women’s charities in Sierra Leone. It was about the time of the Ebola crisis so it was desperately needed.
Why did you decide to do Dulux Trade London Revolution?
From experience, I know that you need a target to aim for. A friend, Anne-Josette Maddox, I met in Greece last summer is a keen cyclist and she is doing it so I thought it would be fun to cycle with her again.
Join Virginia and secure your place now on Dulux Trade London Revolution 2018: