An urgent appeal
32nd America`s Cup - Valencia , Spain - Cycle 4 Leukaemia End - End Epic 2008
A member of Team Shosholoza’s 2007 America’s Cup campaign has launched an epic 'cycle for leukaemia' to raise funds and awareness for a bone marrow donor organization even though he is back in hospital fighting a desperate battle against the disease.
South African sailmaker Mike Coburn, 35, who was proud to join Team Shosholoza in Valencia, Spain after recovering from a bone marrow transplant himself, is planning to raise funds for the Anthony Nolan Trust by cycling 1000 miles from one end of Britain to the other - John O’Groats to Land’s End – in November this year.
The Anthony Nolan Trust managers and recruits new donors to the United Kingdom’s most successful bone marrow register.
'The Trust’s motto is 'Taking back Lives from Leukaemia'. They found my donor and gave me a new lease on life so I want to give back to them. Our End - End Epic will be a tough ride but I think it will be one of the most rewarding things I’ll ever do,' said Coburn in an email from Southampton where he has been working for the past year.
Gung-ho with enthusiasm a few weeks back Coburn even challenged the 100 foot record breaking super maxi yacht Leopard to a race around Britain's Isle of Wight to raise awareness for the cycle campaign. He was confident he could cycle around the island faster than Leopard could do it on the water.
But a day before 28 June annual Round the Island race Coburn was admitted to hospital as an extreme emergency case with a platelet count of zero and internal haemorraghing.
Since then he has been on six drips a day for eight hours every day and remains in a serious condition. Yet he has continued a relentless appeal for the sponsorship and promotion of the cycle challenge via email and skype.
'Please support us. www.cycle4leukaemia.org is very close to my heart and I know if anything happens to me, my team – Cath Vise and Haig Youens on bikes and Pat Jolly in our support car - will continue with it,' his latest email said last night.
Coburn's world first came crashing down in March 2004 - the same week that founding managing director Captain Salvatore Sarno announced the launch of Team Shosholoza as South Africa’s first ever America’s Cup challenger.
Durban born Coburn had been working in Australia and just moved to England when by chance he was diagnosed with Chronic Myloid Leukaemia. If untreated he was given 3 to 6 months to live.
'Nothing on this planet prepares you for when a doctor is going to say to you: 'You’ve got cancer'. I was only 32 years old. Life as I knew it ended in a split second.
Coburn said he was lucky a donor was found and that after a lot of hard work - especially convincing his doctor it was a good idea - he was finally well enough in 2006 to join Shosholoza in Spain. He says it was 'without doubt' one of the best things he has ever done.
'I knew very well the problem Mike had when I accepted to enroll him. Although we had not too many possibility to talk together Mike was for me the team member that was more alike me; both of us, we were crazy, both of us were dreaming the impossible dream and both of us, we were believing in what we were doing and dreaming. He is a special page of my book,' said Captain Sarno who is busy writing a book on Team Shosholoza.
Coburn's cheerful and unassuming nature meant that few of his Shosholoza team mates knew the ordeal he had been through, or that he was still on medication and had to fly to Britain every month for a check up.
Even fewer knew that working the gruelling night shift – which meant checking and repairing every seam of every sail that came off the water to ensure they were race ready for the next day - actually suited him because it helped prevent over exposure to the sun’s UV rays which would have put his whole transplant in jeopardy.
At the time team member Mike Giles said: 'Mike is alive because of his positive mind set and his will to live and fight. He wanted to be part of Shosholoza and make a difference and took a huge knock in salary and living conditions to do so. He was a valuable asset to the team and never let his 'illness' get in the way. In fact he never missed a day’s work.'
Besides Team Shosholoza the only other highlight Coburn mentions on his blog is meeting South African singer Johnny Clegg in London recently. He describes Clegg as one of the 'great inspirations in struggling against impossible odds.'
'Meeting him and the words of encouragement he provided renewed my will to fight this impeachment and strengthened my resolve to find a cure for Leukaemia for which all mankind can benefit,' Mike writes on his blog.
A friend , Ollie Hilton, posted the latest update on their www.cycle4leukaemia.org blog saying he felt compelled to do so partly because Coburn was so critically ill and also because time is running out.
'Something needs to be done right now,' said Hilton. 'Mike has had two really close shaves this week. I know I speak for everyone when I say that we are hoping and praying for a miracle. The people that are helping Mike to fight for his life need more than prayers and positive thoughts.
'The Anthony Nolan Trust needs generous support right now. Please give generously and forward this website blog www.cycle4leukaemia.org to everyone you know,' said Hilton.
Or email Mike Coburn on: seaweed1972(at)hotmail.com
or Skype him on: seaweed1972
Issued on behalf of Team Shosholoza
SA America's Cup Challenger
* Team Shosholoza embraces a strong training and development component through the Izivunguvungu MSC Foundation for Youth in Simonstown, Cape Town.
* Royal Cape Yacht Club in Cape Town is the South African America's Cup Challenge Club.
* Team Shosholoza is sponsored by MSC Crociere and Breil Milano.
* Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is the patron of Team Shosholoza.