East Yorkshire hotelier Paul Whymant is on the last leg of his marathon two-month cycling and poetry tour of England and Scotland during which he has visited 35 cancer hospitals and raised money for Macmillan Cancer Support in the process.
Paul, chairman of the family-owned Tickton Grange Hotel, near Beverley, will be dismounting his bike for the last time when he arrives at Castle Hill Hospital’s oncology unit on Friday morning (JUNE 30) at 9.30am.
It’s an important landmark moment for Paul, not just because it marks the final destination on a 1,500-mile journey, but Castle Hill Is where he underwent surgery and chemotherapy and then three years of immunotherapy treatment after being diagnosed with bladder cancer.
Paul decided on his unique fund-raiser because it combined two of his great loves. While in recovery he spent his “poorly days” reading and writing poetry and his “better days” riding his bike through the fresh air of the Yorkshire Wolds.
Setting off on the May Day bank holiday, he has cycled on a route through Yorkshire, the Midlands, East Anglia, London, the South Coast, West Country, North West, North East and Scotland visiting cancer hospitals along the way.
At each location he met and talked with staff and patients and read a specially-written poem, “Red Leather Yellow Feather”, which uses his journey as a metaphor for life’s challenges. He describes the marathon and the people he has met along the way as a “humbling experience”.
As well as raising money for Macmillan through sponsorship and via a JustGiving page, Paul wanted to encourage other cancer patients, their families and friends to write a poem and he hopes an anthology of selected poems will be published as a result with, again, all proceeds going to Macmillan.
“Cancer is such an emotional journey.” explains Paul “It deeply affects families and friends as well as the patient, sometimes even more. For me, poetry is a release, freedom, contentment. We can all write, no special skills are required, it’s simply a matter of putting your heart onto paper. More people should try it, they will love it.”
He continued: “After three years of cancer treatment, I’ve come through the tunnel. So many people helped me along the way; so many people were walking through the same tunnel with me, and some never came out. This was my chance to give a bit back.
“I feel privileged to be alive,” he says, after being declared cancer free mid-way through last year. “I feel privileged that treatment was available to me, privileged that the NHS, despite its problems and pressures, was so positive. And free. And privileged that Macmillan cares – a real people organisation that deserves our support.
“A hotelier all my working life, people are central to my world. Empathy is a big word for me. I love to be part of the mix, but then I have to be alone sometimes too, on my bike perhaps, or walking along a windy clifftop, perfectly happy writing a few lines in front of a log fire on a winter’s evening. Poetry in its simplest form is pure relaxation,” he says.
Notes to editors: Paul is expected to arrive on his bike at Castle Hill Oncology Unit at 9.30am on Friday June 30. Photographers and reporters are invited to welcome him home.