RETIRED rugby players are swapping their boots for bikes to ride coast to coast after a former teammate's battle with cancer.

Lee Whillock, 48 from Winchcombe was diagnosed with Neuro Endocrine Tumour cancer in March 2016, which affects fewer than five in 100,000 people.

In its infancy it is very slow growing and hard to detect but it can become a more aggressive form of cancer by the time it is diagnosed.

The father of two had started training to take part in the 250 mile ride, however, his cancer became active again and his new regime of chemotherapy means he will only take part in a small amount of the ride.

He 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."

A seven strong team of retired rugby players will be stepping into the saddle for Mr Whillock, a former teammate at Birmingham Old Edwardians rugby club based in Solihull.

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

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.

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.

The group will start by climbing Mount Snowdon on Wednesday May 31 and then they will cycle through Wales, starting in Colwyn Bay and finishing near Newport.

Mr Whillock's son, Archie Whillock, 15, will join the group for the last stage.

In September they will also enter the Velo in Birmingham, a 100 mile marathon equivalent on closed roads around Birmingham.

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