An epic journey for health and friendship is about to hit the road.
Cancer "thriver" Karen Crutchlow is riding across WA to raise funds for a cause close to her heart - brain cancer research.
In 2013, a stranger by the name of Nina Concannon was given four years to live.
With a young family, she wanted to extend this time so she headed to Karen's workshop 'Can We Eat to Cheat Cancer?'
Even though Karen had been living with breast cancer since 2006, she said through meeting Nina, she had "come to appreciate the very real limitations that those with brain cancer faced".
"Brain cancer kills more children in Australia than any other disease and more people under 40 than any other cancer," Karen said.
During the ensuing years, Karen and Nina became good friends and in 2019 decided to raise funds for research through Willpower on Wheels (WoW), a bike ride across Australia.
They said they admired the work of the renowned but controversial Professor Charlie Teo so decided to fundraise for the Charlie Teo Foundation.
Planning and training for Willpower on Wheels began.
"Before we could make further plans, the ride got delayed for essential family matters, bush fires, and eventually, a global pandemic," Nina said.
Then, at the end of April in 2020, Nina received devastating news.
A new tumour had been detected in a different part of her brain - and it was growing, fast.
Nina had to call on Prof. Teo's surgical skills to give her the chance of life where surgeons in WA were unable to help.
She said in WA, her situation was considered an "inoperable case for surgery".
Karen flew with Nina across the country at the end of August, 2020, while back at home Tim, Nina's husband stayed to look after their three daughters, not knowing how surgery would go.
The surgery was successful, but left Nina with significant paralysis down her right side, deafness in her right ear and impaired vision.
The news that the surgery had been performed just a few weeks before the tumour would've taken Nina's life was sobering.
The trip will take almost seven weeks with an average distance of 100km per day and one day per week to rest - Karen lives with metastatic cancer, so breaking a speed record is not her aim.
The 3700km ride begins on September 24 and is expected to finish on November 7, with Nina riding the final kilometre.
The wheels are in motion to cycle via a coastal route from Busselton Jetty to Albany, on to Bremer Bay and Esperance and then north to Norseman and east along the Eyre Highway to Eucla.
The return journey will take Karen back to Norseman and then west, onto Hyden, Narrogin toward Manjimup, Bridgetown and Nannup, finishing where she started, at Busselton Jetty.
Although Nina has received medical advice that she will never be able to ride a bike again, they are investigating using a tricycle for her.
The aim of this is for Nina to ride the final kilometre of Willpower on Wheels, to complete the 3700km journey with Karen, both cycling into their city together, finishing where it started, at the beautiful Busselton Jetty.
"When Nina hears the word 'impossible' she sees an opportunity to shift people's perceived expectations of the human spirit, so we are trying to find a way to support Nina to accompany me over the finish line," Karen said.
The community can support the journey with donations and sponsorship that will be key to Willpower on Wheels executing this challenge and reaching their fundraising target of $40,000 for brain cancer research.
Karen will be supported by Susan Kennedy, a retired Registered Nurse and key member of the team. Their support vehicle will be their main accommodation source, carry spare cycling equipment, basic necessities for the journey and importantly, the medical supplies that Karen will require to manage her health.
This is a journey of personal challenge that will draw on Karen's resilience, determination and highlight the incredible capacity of the human spirit.
Karen said while the bike ride was a story in and of itself, there were threads of similar stories woven through the fabric of WoW; that of Karen's, Nina's, and the work of Prof. Charlie Teo and the Charlie Teo Foundation.
"And then of course, there are the stories attached to the reasons many are coming together to ensure Willpower on Wheels is successful," she said.
"It's a human-interest story that is anticipated to attract the attention of people across Australia and onto the UK where both Nina and Karen have strong roots.
"There would be few families that have not been affected by cancer in some way - many will recognise that hope is a powerful motivator - particularly when a life has been given a finite end frame."
Through her own cancer story, that of her friend Nina's and the countless cancer patients Karen has worked with as a health coach and met, she said inspirational stories offered hope and a reason to keep looking toward a future...even when the future may be shorter in time frame.
Karen has set a target to raise $40,000 for the Charlie Teo Foundation, a research organisation that will continue its vital work long after Prof. Charlie Teo has retired.
WoW offers all of us an opportunity to contribute to supporting research that is changing what we understand about brain cancers and the development of minimally invasive treatments so that hope really can shine a light on the path of others diagnosed with brain cancers into the future.
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