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6th July 2017
Written by Jo O
James Golding, 36 from Rugby, has had two near-death experiences. James has gone from nearly dying on the operating table, while almost paralysed through weakness, to endurance riding across the USA (where he got hit by a truck). He’s ridden the world’s toughest cycle route, the Haute Route eight times (including reaching three of the highest peaks non-stop) and is now a TEDx speaker and motivational mentor for schoolchildren. Last month he broke the world record by cycling 1,766.2 miles in seven days which was 6 miles further than the previous record!
James Golding was a young man who was at the top of his game; an estate agent into money, cars, working hard, playing hard and generally having a good time.
In November 2008 doctors thought that James had testicular cancer after weeks with incredible lower back pain. In fact, scans showed he had an 11.5cm tumour wedged between his spine, kidney and bowel. By late February 2009 he’d dropped from 14 stone to 6 stone in weight and had lost the ability to walk.
On 24 February 2009, just before midnight, he was rushed into emergency surgery. His surgeon gave him less than 5% chance of survival and they expected him to die; James very nearly did, having arrested while on the operating table.
James had four surgeons working on him for six hours. James said “They opened me up and found that the tube they had put in to feed me had actually eroded through the back of my bowel and so all of the food they being pumped in to me along with all the food I was eating was actually being pumped into my cavity. I had peritonitis and septicemia.”
After his operation, and two weeks in an induced coma, he started his long road to recovery. Despite not being able to even lift his head off his pillow, he set himself daily tasks; slowly rehabilitated himself starting with wiggling his toes, moving his legs until he could walk to the toilet, a few metres away. He then challenged himself to walk off the ward, then around the block, then to the shops, then to ride a bike around the corner.
James tried to live a “normal” life; going out and partying with his “friends” (who had never visited him in hospital). He tried to go back to work but felt horrible and exhausted. Instead he concentrated on challenging himself physically and mentally.
He started to ride his bike for much longer as it allowed him to escape and process what had happened. In 2010 James went on to try riding across America to fundraise but was hit by a truck driving 70mph on a straight road to New Orleans. He was found huddled by the side of the road having lost the skin on his legs, hands, broken several ribs and smashed up his elbow. Within three week’s however, he was back on his bike and riding to fundraise again.
James had been told he could never have children as the result of his extreme chemo treatment, at the time hospital staff said they had never seen such a lethal concoction of chemotherapy. His wife had also been told she could never have children, yet while he was back in the US, cycling across the country for the second time he was meeting up with the first person on the scene of the truck collision, his phone rang. It was his wife phoning to say she was pregnant with their “miracle baby”.
It was at that time however, while expecting his little boy, that he got another life-changing phone call. He was later told he had another cancerous tumour. No-one wanted to perform the surgery and so James had to wait months for a surgeon to be found. James’ strategy was to keep himself busy and so whilst waiting for his operation he completed the Great Swim Series, a three-day London to Paris bike ride, the London Triathlon and Etape Caledonia. He finished the three-day Alpine Challenge race on the Saturday and was on the operating table on the Monday. Two weeks’ after his second operation, his son Freddie was born.
He says if it wasn’t for the cancer, he wouldn’t have worked with the people he has, been the places he has and he wouldn’t have met his wife, or have baby Freddie. Life is far more valuable to him now and he’s a far cry from the partying estate agent he once was. James now tours schools and organisations as a motivational speaker, teaching, sometimes troubled, school kids that they can achieve whatever they want if they work hard for it.
Since relearning to walk and taking his first steps James has gone to cycle many events and challenges including across America, Mexico and France. He’s ridden John O’Groats to Land’s End, London to Paris a number of times and has been an ambassador to the World’s toughest and highest sportive, The Haute Route, which he’s now completed eight times, more times than any other Brit. Incredibly, James has made riding ‘Triple Crowns’ his specialism, by twice completing three Haute Routes back-to-back.
In 2014 to commemorate 5 years since walking out of hospital, James attempted the Seven Day Cycling World Record riding 1100 miles in four days before his crew stopped the ride due to a sudden change in weather conditions.
With over £3 million raised, James has significantly contributed to UK Cancer Charities and is now a cycling ambassador for Cancer Research UK and an independent motivational speaker. James is working towards his biggest global challenge in 2019 and in the build-up will look to inspire others by taking on tougher and tougher challenges and records whilst sharing his story and journey along the way.
Last month, between 19 and 26 June, James covered 1766.2 miles to break the 7 day distance record by 6 miles - chapeau James!
“Recovering from cancer has similarities to endurance sports. Your brain and body is telling you can’t do it. You’re at a place where there’s nothing left. You need to learn how to ignore your inner criticism, tell yourself you can do it and push yourself keep going to the next incremental stage.”
Thank you to James for sharing this inspiring story with us and we look forward to seeing you in the soloist category at Brands Hatch in September.Back to R24 CC
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