Retired rugby players step into saddle to help tackle rare cancer


A group of retired rugby players are swapping rugby boots for bike cleats next month to ride coast to coast across Wales, raising awareness of a rare form of cancer, which their former team mate has been diagnosed with.

The seven strong team of retired rugby players will be stepping into the saddle for a mammoth 250+ mile charity ride in support of former team mate 48 year old father of two, Lee Whillock, from Winchcombe near Cheltenham.

The team mates formerly played together as part of Birmingham Old Edwardians rugby club first team based from Solihull, south Birmingham.

Lee was diagnosed with NET Cancer (Neuro Endocrine Tumour) in March 2016 – a cancer which affects fewer than 5 in 100,000 people. In its infancy is very slow growing and hard to detect, which can mean it has morphed into a more aggressive form of cancer by the time it’s diagnosed.

NET Cancer is a group of unusual, often slow growing cancers, which develop from cells in the diffuse endocrine systems.

They are most commonly found in the lung or gastrointestinal system, but they can arise in other parts of the body such as the pancreas, ovary and testes among other sites.  NET cancers are on the rise and can affect both men and women at various stages of their life, from 17 – 90 years old.

The group are riding not only to raise awareness of the rare cancer, but to raise funds for a specialist cancer charity NET Patient Foundation, which supports sufferers and funds much needed research into the cancer’s diagnosis and treatment.

After his cancer was successfully reduced by a tough course of treatment last year Lee started training to join his ex-team mates in the charity challenge. However specialists found the cancer had become active again earlier this year, which has seen Lee undergo a second round of chemotherapy.

Lee said, “Sadly my new chemo regime has dictated I will not be able to undertake most of the charity cycle ride, but it’s my intention to support at least some of the miles. However; my good friends are committed to completing the event on my behalf and are undertaking a gruelling training programme to prepare their slightly overweight frames for 8 hours plus of cycling a day, sitting on a very slim saddle!”

“Such a rare cancer like this attracts little research funding so I hope this challenge makes more people aware of the charity and support their work, so more people with the condition are diagnosed earlier and receive the treatment they need.”

“It’s likely I won’t personally benefit from the funds raised but I hope it helps someone else in my position in the future so they can achieve a length of life in excess of the current statistical forecasts and allow them the possibility of achieving many good memories with their friends and families, like I am doing now with mine.”

Paul McLoughlin from Knowle  and Ian Glover from Moseley are two of Lee’s former team mates taking on the challenge. They commented, “We’ve come together to show our support to Lee and his family and everyone who has been affected by this form of cancer. We’ll start by climbing Mount Snowdon then cycle coast to coast through Wales starting in Colwyn Bay and finishing somewhere near Newport. It will be no mean feat for us England Rugby supporters cycling through Wales – some of us ageing and somewhat heavy too – but we feel that the discomfort we will go through is incomparable to that which our old team mate is coping with. If along the way we can provide benefit to the charity we feel like we can help make a real difference too.”

To support the team and donate towards their challenge visit their online giving page at