Jon marks 10 years cancer-free with epic Mark Beaumont ride for ARCHIE
After overcoming cancer 10 years ago, Jon Ruszka is about to set off on the ride of his life with one of his cycling heroes – after a chance email encounter.
The 55-year-old from Aberdeen admits it was a dark time following his Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis in 2008 but he is now riding free from the disease with his cycling hobby helping him getting back to full fitness.
Jon is now preparing to embark on an epic 265-mile cycle alongside world record-breaker Mark Beaumont – riding from Dundee to Inverness and then on to the Granite City on Friday April 26 and Saturday April 27 to raise funds for The ARCHIE Foundation.
Jon is part of a team of cyclists set to join him on ARCHIE and Mark’s Big Bike Ride on April 26 and 27 this year – and there are still a few spots left for other keen cyclists who would like to ride next to the current round-the-world record holder.
For Jon, being part of the trip is an important personal milestone. “I’ve made no secret over my cancer. I’m now 10 years clear and I think it will be a nice thing to do on the anniversary of it.”
An active adventurer, Jon enjoyed skiing and cycling holidays but his world was turned upside down when he was given a shock diagnosis before a trip to France.
He recalls: “I had a ski holiday planned but I had a sore knee and lost a bit of weight – which I wasn’t too concerned about.
“I went to see my doctor and she found a lump under my arm which I had ignored. I was sent for tests and later diagnosed.
“Until you understand and learn what’s happening, that’s the darkest moments. I had a young daughter at the time, who is now 17, and I was thinking ‘what’s going to happen here’?”
Luckily for Jon, he was treated successfully at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and is indebted to the staff that treated him. The following year he was given the all-clear.
He says cycling was the activity that helped him get back to a better physical and mental state in his recovery from the disease.
“I was unfit and overweight after my chemo and radiotherapies.
“After that I went back to cycling and got back into shape and enjoying the things I loved before.
“Cycling is very sociable. I go out mostly on my own. It’s like meditation, I find it therapeutic. You see the wildlife, the birdlife, the fields.
“But when you go out with your pals you get great banter and you egg each other on.
“It’s easy to get stressed about things that are not worth getting stressed about, but my cancer has helped me put things into perspective.
“Being out cycling helped me put things back in the right order. It puts me in a better mental state and think things through.”
In a neat tie-in with The ARCHIE Foundation, Jon’s wife Sue won the auction for a cycling shirt signed by Mark at The ARCHIE Foundation’s Storybook Ball fundraiser in Aberdeen. Jon approached Mark to ask for a signed photo to go along with the shirt in a frame.
He explains: “After a few emails backwards and forwards, Mark mentioned ARCHIE and Mark’s Big Bike Ride and asked if I would be interested.
“From simply asking for a signed picture of him I’ve now been selected to be a part of it.”
Jon is now relishing ARCHIE and Mark’s Big Bike Ride alongside his cycling hero and can’t wait to get to know him as well as other riders who are sure to form a bond on the trip of a lifetime.
“I think it will be fascinating to ride alongside Mark and will give a better insight to the man himself.
“I’ve been to talks of his and I’ve just listened – but haven’t had the chance to talk to him personally.
“On this trip we’ll get to know him and it will be really interesting.
“Over the course of the event everyone will get close and we’ll make friends and no doubt we’ll meet up again and go on other trips.”
Like many people from the north east of Scotland, The ARCHIE Foundation is a charity close to Jon’s heart.
“I have friends who have benefited – everyone knows someone who has had an experience with the children’s hospital,” he said.
“I think it’s the favourite charity in Aberdeen – everyone knows about it.
“It’s a great charity. You see where the money goes and it’s local.”
Jon has set a fundraising target of £5,000, and is already halfway there with a current tally of £2,585. People can contribute on his Just Giving page.
His focus is now on getting in shape for the cycle in little under three months. While the bitter cold of winter might not be ideal for training out in the open, Jon is determined to get there.
“This time of year is not the easiest – but you just have to keep cycling.
“Although it’s cold, the local council are really good at treating the major routes and they are fine for cycling. I plan on heading out for the day from Aberdeen to Braemar, if it’s dry. But we are lucky in the east because it is always fairly dry – despite people’s perceptions.
“Otherwise, we go mountain biking to keep away from the roads or get in the gym.
“I’m also trying to eat healthily – which can be a bit hard immediately after Christmas but it’s going ok so far.”
There are still a few places to join Jon and Mark, and anyone interested should email email@example.com.