On 2 August at 12.13am, it will be seven years to the very moment since my brother Basil Joseph Skyers died of multiple myeloma, the second most common blood cancer. He was age 49.
Seven long unrelenting years and as time has moved inexorably forward, it has been accompanied by the gradual realisation that he is never coming back. When I say ‘unrelenting years’, I do not mean that there have not been countless moments of happiness. There have of course been so many of those and I hope there will be many more to come. But, for those of you who share in the experience of loss, and that includes all of us, at least at some stage in the life course, you will understand that the underlying feeling of absence is always there.
We are all proud of what we have been able to achieve through the Basil Skyers Myeloma Foundation. With the support of friends, colleagues, healthcare professionals, family, friends who have become family, and through our intimate yet growing network of supporters, we have been able to provide some of the practical support for patients and carers that is needed. The Foundation started in Nottingham at the Centre for Clinical Haematology where Basil was treated, and has now widened its area of coverage to include financial support, albeit modest, to patients being treated at hospitals in London, Lincoln, Mansfield, Plymouth, and other parts of England. I am personally very proud to have been included in the cycling challenge Dan Dolby, Steve Wright, Natasha Dolby, Glen Holbrook and Mark Gauld have set in riding our self-styled Myeloma – Multiple Miles UK challenge. I had always been a keen cyclist but had not been on a bike for many, many years. In truth, in the years after my brother Basil died, I was not able to face riding because, with the exception of our respective work cycle commutes, Basil and I had mainly cycled together for fun. When Dan, the ride organiser, also one of the charity’s founders, and Basil’s former manager, and friend, told me he wanted to get a team together to do John O’Groats to Lands End and raise funds for the Foundation, I said I would join. What was I thinking!
As is the case with many families, initially we experienced, the inevitable blow that follows diagnosis, and the remorseless challenge of having to navigate a raft of major life changes that impact the entire family. So, I am riding because access to treatments, services, and support, survivorship, and outcomes, are not experienced in the same way by everyone. It is therefore important to raise awareness by giving voice to this. At the same time, I want to actively do my bit to support patients, carers and families to help fund some of the practical support initiatives that are needed, and that can make life a little easier. I am riding also as a tribute to my late brother and in memory of him. To me it seems a fitting way to express how I felt about Basil and how I feel about him still: through our shared love for cycling in a sense writ large. So, Bas, seven years on, this is from a Sister to her Brother. I miss you every single day but as I go on in my life and set out on this challenge, I will draw from the two most important things that you taught me: how to take the best from what happens to us, if we can, and to keep the wheels of life turning!