When Andy Miller awoke in Southampton General Hospital in March 2010, he remembered little of the previous 24 hours. Andy had suffered several seizures at his home in Hamworthy and, following initial triage at Poole General Hospital, was transferred to Southampton where he was diagnosed with a brain tumour and admitted to the Wessex Neurological Centre. Surgery to remove the tumour followed in June 2010, and aftercare has continued since, both at the Wessex and at Poole General Hospital.
Since undergoing treatment, father of two Andy, aged 31, has enjoyed the support and encouragement of his colleagues at Parkeon, in Poole, where he works as a System Architect designing parking and traffic management systems. Colleague and friend, Pete Light, also has personal reasons to be grateful to the Wessex Neurological Centre, having both a niece and grandmother-in-law who have suffered brain tumours, and been treated at the centre. Keen to give something back to those who cared for Andy, and Pete’s relatives, and to help others who’ll need their specialist care in the future, they put their heads together and came up with the ‘Tour de Parkeon’. “A cycle ride across France seemed like a good idea,”comments Pete, a System Engineer, “so we devised a 615-mile route from Poole to Parkeon in Besançon, near the Swiss border, via Parkeon’s Paris office.”
Pete and Andy set off from Poole on Thursday 23rd August and dropped into the Wessex Neurological Centre for an impromptu photo shoot and after an early water refill they carried on to Portsmouth where they took an overnight ferry to Caen. From there, the route continued through Rouen, Reims and Dijon via Parkeons office in Paris.
Unfortunately Andy could only manage 3 days of the tour so Pete was forced to complete the remaining 11 days and the gruelling second half of the tour through the hills and valleys of the Champagne region on his own.
Pete is the first to admit that there were some real low times where problems seemed to come one after another and the distance and hills seemed to be ever increasing. However, the reward to relax, speak with family and check out the support at the end of each day was just the tonic he needed to keep his focus and determination to complete the ride.
The support that Pete and Andy received was ‘truly exceptional’, everyone from friends, family and local media in the UK to the Parkeon team, general public and media in France. The Parkeon team in France even organised a dedicated ride with some colleagues cycling the second half of the final leg of the tour with Pete.
When Pete arrived in Besancon on 4th September he received a very warm welcome from approximately 100 staff and local media with a marquee and refreshments. He also returned to a hero’s welcome in the UK where 60 of his friends and family were waiting out in the street to show their appreciation with banners and gifts.
Commenting on the challenge, Smile4Wessex Appeal Co-ordinator Neil Westbrook said ‘Well done to both Pete and Andy, unfortunately Andy was unable to complete the ride but that didn’t stop Pete from digging in and carrying on alone, without even a support vehicle. We are extremely grateful for all the hard work and fundraising they have done’
We are very sad to learn that Andy lost his battle with cancer on April 28th, we are so grateful for all the fundraising he did for the Smile4Wessex Appeal, and our sincere condolences go to his family and friends.