The Hiemstra family. From left, Anneke, Henk, Allie and Peter. PHOTO/EMMA TAYLOR
A gruelling trip on the highest cyclable road in the world was inspired by the perseverance of a Martinborough cancer survivor.
Mother-of-three Allie Hiemstra was diagnosed with breast cancer almost a year ago to the day.
After going through three surgeries, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she realised she had more resilience and strength than she thought she did – “you have to call on your inner strength to get through those kinds of situations in your life”.
It was this attitude which was the cornerstone of her brother Peter Hiemstra’s cycling fundraiser in South America.
“It was my second chemo therapy session and we were sitting in the hospital cafeteria and Pete said, Allie, I’ve got this thing planned and I really want to do this bike ride and do something for you and the cancer society – I’m looking at getting some sponsorship or donations.
“It blew me away and made me feel very proud as a sister.”
Allie said the Wairarapa Cancer Society had done so much for her during her treatment that “it was nice to think we were doing something to give back as a family”.
Peter completed a sea to 5777m cycle trip from the coast in Chile up to the col on Cerro Uturunco which is thought to be the highest ridable road in the world.
He was well prepared for the trip both physically and mentally, knowing there would be many challenging aspects such as extreme cold conditions, strong head winds and risk of altitude sickness.
“To acclimatize, I hired a 4WD, which also required an accompanying guide, and from the point where cars cannot go further, climbed 500m to the top of Uturunco at 6,008m.
“This also allowed me to gauge the condition of the road and drop off some emergency camping gear at about 5,300m.
There were certainly some tough moments on the bike for Peter, particularly on the final push to the high point, “I had a poignant moment near the top, when I realised I could still turn back if I wanted to – I never considered this – but that Allie didn’t have the same luxury with cancer.
“The last section, which was one of the hardest because of the extreme high altitude, became just a little bit more bearable after that.”
Allie said she was “super proud” of her brother’s efforts, and wanted to use the opportunity to stress the importance of breast cancer awareness.
“I had no family history of cancer so I was really shocked when I was diagnosed.
“There are also a lot of visual changes other than a lump that people should be aware of – I couldn’t find a lump at all… It was more like an indentation.”
“I’d really like to stress the importance of being vigilant and checking yourself regularly, if you notice any change go and get yourself checked out.”
So far Peter has raised more than $7000 on his Everyday Hero page: https://give.everydayhero.com/nz/sea-to-mountain-5800m-south-american-challenge.
Although Peter has completed his cycle trip the page will remain open until the end of February.
Donations from Peters cycle trip will go on to maintain Wairarapa cancer community support services.
For more information on breast cancer awareness, visit breastcancerfoundation.org.nz.