Joe Crofts' Story
Joe Crofts has an incredible story. Since being diagnosed with lung cancer and having part of his lung removed, he has gone on to become a phenomenal fundraiser for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, including completing the gruelling London to Paris cycle ride. This is his story.
"I’d been suffering with a cough for about four months and had just finished a third course of strong antibiotics for the chest infection my doctor thought I had. After a referral to a consultant, I was told that they had found a distinct mass in my left lung and that the treatment for this type of cancer was a lobectomy."
"It’s the people around you who feel the need to be doing something to help you; I think it’s probably hardest on them. My wife kept everything going for the two weeks that we waited for my surgery, and beyond. I can only imagine what she must have been going through, but she always made it seem as though she had no doubts that we’d get through it and everything would be okay."
"My parents live 300 miles from me so I had to break the news of my diagnosis to them over the phone. That was a difficult call to make. After surgery my mum made the 300 mile journey every week to look after me when my wife had to work as I really couldn’t do very much for myself."
"I think the biggest change having lung cancer has brought is that we used to put things off. We’d say we’d do them next year or the year after because we were too busy working to do them now. We now know how important it is to make the most of right now."
"One of the things we always talked about doing ‘one day’ was moving out of the city. We’ve done that now and have a lovely house in the countryside with a garden where I grow vegetables."
"I still find it difficult to make long-term plans, even six years after surgery. Even trying to make plans for a year from now seems like a long time away and so much might happen."
London to Paris
"I didn’t really challenge myself before surgery. Since then, I started with a relatively ‘small’ challenge in 2013 and cycled the 48 miles doing the Pedal for Scotland cycle from Glasgow to Edinburgh. I could barely walk at the end of it, but I loved it. In 2015 I stepped it up a little and cycled RideLondon and really got the bug… along with a set of cyclist’s tan lines that lasted for nearly five months! I think I sent my first email about the London to Paris ride within a month of finishing that ride."
"I felt very, very nervous before the start of the London to Paris cycle ride. Even though I’d put in a lot of training and I was confident I could do 100 miles in a day, I really didn’t know if I’d have the physical, or mental, capacity to get up the next morning and do it all again. On the first day, London to Dover, we had a very strict cut-off time to make sure we got there for the ferry. I’m not the fastest of cyclists so I was really worried that I’d fall behind. Fortunately that didn’t happen, I’m not sure how I’d have coped with day 2 if it had."
"The whole experience was fantastic. It was so much more enjoyable than I expected it to be. Of course, the days were long (especially the first one) and it was a tough cycle, but the route was the perfect mix of scenic countryside and picturesque villages and every time I started to struggle there was something new on the horizon to get to."
"One of the most poignant sections took us through the Somme. Open farmland as far as the eye could see, broken by little clumps of woodland, old villages and the cemeteries for soldiers from both sides. A truly sobering landscape, and such a way to experience it."
"I’m not sure I’ll ever top the feeling of the last leg as we cycled up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in a group of more than 50 cyclists whilst pedestrians cheered us on. Simply amazing."
Highlights and Friendships
"The real highlight for me was the people I met on the ride. I found myself cycling along with a group of guys from Wales. We got chatting and they quickly ‘adopted’ me as one of their own. We ended up going all the way to Paris together. We’ve kept in touch since and I’m heading to Wales later this year to spend the weekend cycling around the Brecon Beacons with them."
"I’d tell anybody thinking of doing the London to Paris ride to do it; it’s an adventure they’ll never forget. The first day is by far the toughest but if you’ve done your training you’ll get through it. My biggest tip would be to take the time to enjoy the ride. You’ve got plenty of time to get where you’re going so if you see somewhere you want to stop for five minutes (a coffee shop in the middle of a village) it’s okay."
"Cycling to Paris started me thinking about my next challenge and the one that keeps coming to mind is Lands’ End to John O’Groats. It’s more than twice as far as London to Paris and the weather likely won’t be nearly as good, but I can’t stop thinking that’s my next big goal. I just need to convince my wife and set a date…"
Why do it?
"I was 34 years old, I’ve never smoked and I hadn’t spent much time thinking about lung cancer. Suddenly I was being told I had it. The more I started to learn about it the more appalling it seemed that that the biggest cancer killer in the UK receives so little funding, and that the public really knows so little about it. I probably don’t need to tell you just how many people say, on hearing I had lung cancer, “but you don’t smoke”. So much more needs to be done to educate, to treat, and to prevent this awful disease, and that all needs money."
"Every day I’m thankful for the chance I’ve been given. I know how lucky I’ve been. If by raising some money I can help Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation to help even just one other person to be as lucky as I’ve been then that’s got to be worth doing."
"As long as I can keep doing things and people are still willing to give me money for them then I’ll keep on going."
If you’re a keen cyclist and want to raise money to help beat lung cancer, you can take part in this year’s London to Paris cycle ride, taking place on dates in June, July and August. For further details, please visit https://www.roycastle.org/support-us/get-active/cycle/london-to-paris-cycle.