For Kempsey mum Maura Luxford the pain of a 1500km push bike ride to Melbourne is nothing compared to the pain of losing her daughter recently to skin cancer.
The 47-year-old, who only took up bike riding after the death of her 20-year-old daughter Hannah last Christmas, is hoping to raise $150,000 for research into melanoma cancer.
“I started riding to help with the grieving and get a bit of distance from my pain and I just kept going,” Maura said during her stopover in the Camden Haven last Thursday on her way south.
“It felt like my heart was going through a cheese grater. I’m a trained counsellor but I had no idea how terrible it is to lose your own child.”
Maura set off from the Macleay Skin Cancer Clinic in Kempsey last Wednesday.
“I’m very excited about the trek. I have a chance to turn a tragedy into a positive and help others,” she said.
Maura called in at the Camden Haven High School to have a chat to the Year 7 students.
She warned them about the dangers of skin cancer and ways to protect themselves from a disease which is the second biggest killer of young Australians behind road accidents.
“Kids don’t get it but when you put a personal touch to it the lights go on,” Maura said.
She described her late daughter Hannah as a “courageous, funny and very intelligent” person who was studying Stock Science at UNE at Armidale.
“She never thought she wouldn’t survive and she said we must raise some money for research when I get well,” Maura said.
Despite a determined battle to beat the disease Hannah passed away just 12 months after being diagnosed with the melanoma.
“People under 25 with melanoma don’t live longer than one year,’ Maura said.
Her surviving daughter Esther Luxford-Matthews is driving the support van for the first and last week of the 38 day trek.
The 19-year-old wants to keep older sister’s memeory alive and follow in her footsteps to become one of Australia’s top women’s rodeo riders.
“My sister was a champion barrel racing rider. At the moment I’m training with Vicki Schiller in Wagga Wagga. She one of the best cowgirls in Australia,” Esther said.
Maura said the local communities had been incredibly generous in their support of her trek.
“We raised $35,000 from fundraisers and $500 just from the sale of pens on the morning before we set off,” she said.
Watsons Caravans at Port Macquarie supplied the van and Lloyd Newell of Gordon Street Cycles provided the fitted-out bike for the ride. The journey will end at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne where Hannah bravely spent her last days.
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