Gallery: Young cancer survivor launches event

AN HEROIC 11-year-old cancer survivor, who feared he may never walk again after gruelling spinal surgery, yesterday biked a colossal 15 miles for charity.

James Mortlock

AN HEROIC 11-year-old cancer survivor, who feared he may never walk again after gruelling spinal surgery, yesterday biked a colossal 15 miles for charity.

Rory Pettitt, who is continuing to recover from Burkitt's Lymphoma - a rare condition which caused an aggressive tumour to develop on his spinal cord - completed the impressive feat after launching the annual St Edmund's Wheel cycling, walking and running event in the Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmunds.

The course - through villages and countryside around Bury - took the youngster, who is still learning to walk again, just under two hours to complete and he said he was delighted with his performance.


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Rory, who was the first of hundreds of competitors to ride out of the Abbey Gardens, said: “There was one really steep hill which was quite tough but I did it and I was determined to do the course. It's a good feeling - a great sense of achievement.”

The youngster, of Chalk Lane, Ixworth, who has been in remission for 18 months, was raising money for the children's cancer charity, CLIC Sargent, which gave valuable support to him and his family during and after his treatment.

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Doctors were at first unable to find what was wrong with Rory but after the tumour was found on his spine, the Ixworth Middle School pupil was taken to Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, for emergency surgery which left him paralysed from the waist down. He then underwent intensive chemotherapy.

His mother, Deana, who also completed the 15-mile ride yesterday, said doctors told her Rory had been lucky to survive: “By the time he got to Addenbrooke's, he was so desperately ill they told us if he'd got there a few days later they probably couldn't have saved him. They didn't know whether he would walk again.”

However, she said her son's ride yesterday was testament to the “amazing” recovery he was making: “I didn't think he would do it as he's been suffering with tonsillitis all week but I'm really proud of him and he's chuffed with himself. He said he was determined to do it and he's done it - I think it's amazing.”

Karen Roberts, community fundraising manager for CLIC Sargent, said she was thrilled Rory had been able to launch the event and complete the course: “It's great that people who are doing the race can see someone who has benefited from the work we do. Rory and his family have been supported by CLIC Sargent nurses and social workers.”

She hoped the event would raise thousands of pounds for the charity, which would keep CLIC Sargent helping dozens of Suffolk families every year.

Brian Hurrell, of St Edmund's Wheel, said the event had grown into a major fundraiser for a host of charities from small beginnings 11 years ago: “We had 60 people take part then and we raised £1,100. This year we've had well over 400 people taking part and we will go through the £100,000 barrier for the total raised over the 11 years.”

He said the cycling routes - of 15, 25, 50 and 100 miles - proved popular, along with the three and six mile walks and relay races around the town.

Inspired by Rory, a team from the Waitrose supermarket in Bury - where Mrs Pettitt works - also rode for CLIC Sargent.

To sponsor Rory, go to www.bemycharity.com/rorypettittsfund

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