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by Henry James (August 2018)

A MOTHER from Skelmersdale who has battled bladder cancer for two years ‘celebrated’ getting the all-clear by tackling a hazardous 3,500-kilometre journey by rickshaw to raise money to fund research and raise awareness of the disease.

Shirley Norris and husband Mike, from Windrows, Old Skem, had to contend with multiple breakdowns, fire and extreme weather conditions to complete the annual Rajasthan Rickshaw rally, travelling the length of India from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan state in the north  and finishing in Bangalore.

Fifty-five-year-old Shirley was diagnosed with aggressive bladder cancer in September, 2016 but after undergoing intensive treatment and a series of operations was finally given the all-clear.

She decided to tackle the rickshaw rally to raise money for Fight Bladder Cancer charity which had supported her and to date she has already raised more than her original £1,500 target through sponsorship.

Shirley said: “I was diagnosed in September 2016 with a high-grade aggressive bladder tumour and underwent a series of operations, resulting finally in the removal of my bladder and other internal organs.

“Fight Bladder Cancer gave me fantastic support, information and encouragement without which I would have been totally lost.

“So, as a token of appreciation and to help all those in the future that may need the charity, me and my hubby did the Rajasthan Rickshaw Rally.

“Every single pound raised goes directly to Fight Bladder Cancer, to help raise awareness, offer help and support and also to learn about and support new techniques for the treatment of bladder cancer.”

During her journey Shirley has been writing down her experiences on social media.

She wrote: “We had 14 days to complete the task, with no support, no back-up or planned route given. We were just given a start and end point and a very small bag of tools to fix any breakdowns.

“In the two weeks we experienced six police stops - but they were mostly curious as to what we were doing and wanted to take selfies with us.

“India has a declared population of over 1.3 billion and with this comes a very busy, vibrant, loud lifestyle. Life and death are there for all to see, every single day.

“We witnessed some amazing sights such as the dead being carried through the streets on bamboo stretchers, covered in orange marigolds, with their heads remaining uncovered. The pall bearers are followed by family and friends throwing petals behind the corpse and chanting.

“But generally the Indian people are absolutely amazing and would go out of their way to help you. Whenever we broke down a crowd would develop, lots of advice would be given and someone would always fetch us tea while repairs were undertaken.

“The worst experience though was when our rickshaw caught fire on a busy highway on the way into Goa!”

Held three times a year, the Rickshaw Rally is organised by UK-based group The Adventurists which has helped raise millions for charity.

And despite being “out of their comfort zone” Shirley and Mike finished a highly creditable 10th out of a total of 86 teams to complete the rally.

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