This year’s Cancer Support France cycle ride will be held in memory of the association’s founder Linda Shepherd, who died earlier this year at the age of 64 following her own battle with cancer.
The annual ride raises money for the charity which is now a network of associations that support English-speaking people in France affected by cancer.
Trained listeners give practical and emotional support adapted to the individual needs of cancer patients, their carers, families and those closest to them. It was founded in 2002, in Poitou Charente, by Linda Shepherd after she had been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer shortly after she moved to France.
She went through extensive treatment, which she said was wonderful, but found that she needed to talk to someone about her fears and worries in her mother tongue and so Cancer Support France was born.
Her French doctor, Professeur Alain Daban, who was at that time head of the radiotherapy department at CHU Poitiers encouraged her as he was aware of the need for a support group for the growing number of Anglophone cancer patients.
In the past 15 years, about 2,000 people have been helped by CSF which now has a network of 15 affiliated but independent associations throughout France. In 2010, it had grown to such an extent that a National Association was created to support the local associations.
Mrs Shepherd stepped down as President in 2014 but her contribution to life for British residents in France was recognised twice that year, once by an invitation to a garden party at the British Residence to mark the Queen’s official birthday and then to attend a State Banquet at the Elysée Palace on June 6th at the invitation of the French President.
By that time her cancer had come back but she continued to play an active part in CSF. Mrs Shepherd’s local group was CS Haute-Vienne where she did her last session as their trainer on March 1 of this year, even though she was very poorly by then.
She is remembered by the people who knew her as someone with vision and determination to help those who were having to battle with cancer in a new country.
CSF National President Penny Parkinson said: “Her tireless support and the example of how she lived her own life is an inspiration to us all. Her legacy is that the organisation she created is now helping Anglophone people touched by cancer across a large part of France.”
Sue Ware, president of Cancer Support Haute-Vienne remembers her as an amazing lady who worked tirelessly for the group: “Linda had enormous compassion, a true sense of faith and will be deeply missed as a friend, as our trainer and guide.”
The CSF cycle ride will take place on June 22 to 25 from Carcassone to Sète via the Canal du Midi and the Canal de la Robine.
Daren Henderson took part in the 2016 ride and said it was a really enjoyable day’s cycling: “We could take part as a family. I’m not a cyclist but found it fairly easy, my son absolutely loved it, especially the welcome party at the finish line! I will definitely be taking part again and all for a great cause.”
The whole route is 200km but there are four stages of 50km, 40km, 50km and 60km and you can start at any one of them. It is free to enter and you can raise money by asking people to sponsor you or to make a donation on www.alvarum.com Details of the ride are on csfcycleforlife.org and it is not too late to take part.