A bike-mad terminally-ill father who dreamt of owning a Harley Davidson will ride one at this Sunday’s St Elizabeth Hospice Motorcycle Run.
Andy Priest, 45, of Wickham Market, was spurred on to give back to the Hospice as a thank you for the care he and his wife Annette have received.
Despite his illness, Andy will take part in the 30-mile sponsored ride from Stonham Barns, near Stowmarket to Flixton, on June 22nd on his beloved Harley Softail Heritage Classic.
Superfit and a body builder, four years ago Andy was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia – more commonly a childhood cancer and extremely severe in adults, affecting just 350 a year. He was given two hours to live.
Intensive chemotherapy, radiotherapy and whole-body radiation had to be started immediately if Andy was to stand a chance of surviving. He later had a bone marrow transplant.
Against all the odds, by the end of 2011, Andy was in ‘tentative’ remission.
But in January 2012 he contracted a serious bacterial infection called Pseudomonas, which will kill him.
“It was awful. I had thought ‘brilliant’ I’ve got through leukaemia, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It was a miracle I got through those first two hours and then to get the blow that this was going to kill me; we just couldn’t believe it. But I can feel it has got worse. I can feel it attacking me, my lungs.”
Andy and Annette are currently appearing in Channel 4’s frank documentary My Last Summer, which tackles taboos around death with five terminally ill people facing their last month’s together.
“I wanted to show that you can’t just curl up and die, you have to be positive and make changes and that a Hospice is not a scary place where you just go to die.”
Andy refused to cry for camera. But when Annette organised a special surprise – a ride on a Harley – he broke down.
Since then Annette decided to ensure he had a Harley of his own.
Andy said: “I always wanted a Harley and was going to get one for my 50th birthday but obviously I won’t be here then. When we sold our house in Oxford, we bought our new house outright so my family would have a secure future. Then Annette suggested we use some of the equity to buy a Harley so I could enjoy it, it’s also an investment as she will sell it to pay for my funeral.
“When I am on my bike that is the only time I switch off from everything; I forget I am ill. It makes me so happy.”
Andy has already raised £100 for St Elizabeth Hospice in sponsorship and wants to get more.
If you want to join Andy and hundreds of other bikers riding to support your local Hospice, you can sign up now here or turn up on the day from 9am. Registration is £7.50 and the first bikers will set off at 10am.