We all take life for granted in one way or another. For Paul Laedlein, a Mildenhall civilian and former Navy man, a bout with prostate cancer in 2006 changed that.
But he beat his affliction and set out to get back to normal, which for him entailed getting back on his bike. And he did just that, pedaling from Lands End in southwest Wales to John o’Groats in the northeastern reaches of Scotland last fall.
All told, Laedlein, 57, biked 1,072 miles while raising more than $4,000 for Cancer Research UK, and he’s planning a similar trip this summer in Ireland.
Where’d you get the idea for this bike trip of all bike trips?
I always wanted to do that. I’m a fairly avid cyclist. I decided to do it after my cancer, and that would be the high-water mark of my recovery.
Did you roll solo?
No, it was part of an organized group. I thought about doing it solo, then I thought it would be more fun to do it with more people. If you’re doing it on your own in the pouring rain, you might just take a day off. And to see the whole country end to end at 15 mph over a set of handlebars, that was neat. Those hills in Cornwall take on a whole new meaning.
What was the hardest part?
The worst part was the very beginning, the first couple of days, not being used to getting up and doing that every single day. It starts in Cornwall, where some of the worst hills are. But it gets easier, and I got more motivated as I went along, and I got more fit.
Did you stop for pints?
I normally had a pint every day. You don’t want to knock back four or five of them, but after riding for a whole day, a nice beer tastes good.
Cancer survivors often speak of a newfound appreciation of life. Was that the case for you?
It was. When I first got diagnosed, it was like being hit by a bus. It was the last thing I expected. Up to that point, I had always looked at life like I was in good shape and I don’t have to worry about this. Then you get the call from the doc. I was determined after the surgery to get myself back to where I was before. You read a lot about this whole cancer survivor thing, but it’s different for everybody. I never thought of it as anything extraordinary. You don’t have much choice and you’ve just got to deal with it. But every day looks a little different.