TWO friends who have lost loved ones to brain tumours challenged themselves to a cycling challenge to help fund the fight against the disease.

Mat Williets, from Fordingbridge, and Joe Dibden, from Durrington, 26, completed their 400 mile challenge last Saturday (July 6), which started on June 29.

Along the way they stopped at nine Waitrose branches in Peterborough, Kingsthorpe, Dorking, Chichester, Havant, Gosport, Dorchester, Sidmouth and Lymington as a way of paying tribute to Mat’s dad Jon who worked in all nine of the stores.

Jon was diagnosed with a low-grade brain tumour in January 2015 after falling out of bed. He had six surgeries and radiotherapy but his tumour became aggressive and he died in July 2018, aged 57, leaving his wife Karen and their sons Mat, Tom and Ben.

Mat’s cycling partner Joe was also bereaved by a brain tumour. His aunty, Lesley Arnold, a veterinary receptionist died in August 2018, just 14 weeks after her diagnosis, aged 59.

Car sales executive Mat said: “It was very tough to see dad undergo operation after operation and for his tumour to grow back after each surgery. The strength he showed throughout his illness was remarkable and I wanted to do something special in his memory. I’d never taken on a cycling challenge before so it was tough, but I know dad would have been proud of me.”

Joe, an assistant technician at the New Arts Centre sculpture park in Roche Court, Salisbury, added: “My aunty was a wonderful woman and it was a terrible shock to lose her so quickly. It was devastating to see her deteriorate and lose the ability to walk and communicate. She went through radiotherapy and chemotherapy but sadly she couldn’t be saved.

“The bike ride was a fantastic way to remember our loved ones and to raise awareness. I would like to continue to fundraise for the Brain Tumour Research charity, as it has really helped me process my grief, and I hope we have inspired other people to fundraise too.”

Joe and Mat raised more than £3,000 for Brain Tumour Research and Salisbury Hospice Charity by completing the cycling tour.

Melanie Tiley, community fundraising manager for Brain Tumour Research in the South West, said: “Jon and Lesley’s stories remind us that less than 20 per cent of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years compared with an average of 50 per cent across all cancers. We cannot allow this devastating situation to continue.”

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