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Fixing Dad: How cycling saved my life

2017-08-30 15:43

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As truly inspiring real-life-and-death stories go, Geoff Whitington’s takes some beating. “If it wasn’t for cycling I doubt I would be here today,” he says.

Two and a half years ago Geoff, then a type 2 diabetes sufferer, woke up to the dawning realisation that continuing on the same path – on a diet of takeaway meals and inactivity – would result in one of his feet being amputated. At 20 stone, he drastically needed to lose weight and stabilise his blood sugars.

Geoff’s sons, Anthony and Ian, intervened and helped steer their “extremely stubborn” father to better health, with the 2014 Prudential RideLondonSurrey 100 the end goal – one that seemed impossible for Geoff, at least to begin with.

“I laughed at Anthony when he suggested it,” says the 64-year-old from Ashford, Kent, who admits he “used to live off junk food”. “I’d never cycled before in my life and didn’t think I’d take to it. 

“But cycling was the only exercise I could do, because of the pain in my foot; the diabetes made it almost impossible to walk any distance or put weight on it. The boys kept on at me about how change is all a frame of mind, and it was. I realise now that if I had taken up cycling when I was first diagnosed with diabetes, in my forties, it could have made such a difference to my life. And, to be honest, if my sons hadn’t forced me, I don’t think I would have done. They have literally saved my life. No question.”

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Anthony, 38, says: “We told Dad he needed to change his diet, strip fat out of his pancreas and liver. He found that cutting out carbohydrates, increasing healthy fats and eating more greens was tough to begin with, but cycling kept him focused and the goal of completing the Prudential RideLondonSurrey 100 made him stick with the diet.”

In 2014 Hurricane Bertha caused the event to be cut short by 14 miles, with Box Hill and Leith Hill rendered out of bounds by the horrific weather conditions. Geoff, alongside Anthony, managed to complete the shortened course, and raised funds for Diabetes UK. In the process he slimmed down to 13 stone and rid himself of the deadly condition. The pair entered last year’s event but could not take part because Geoff had been diagnosed with cancer.

The growth was removed and Geoff is now back on the bike, preparing for this year’s Prudential RideLondonSurrey 100. “He’s back up to 50-mile rides and I hope we can finish the event in seven hours,” Anthony says. Filmmakers Anthony and Ian – two years his junior – have produced an hour-long documentary that chronicles their father’s struggle and transformation.

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 As films go, Fixing Dad is as heartwarming as you can imagine, with a very happy ending. It will be shown at 10pm on BBC2 on Sunday 24 July and free to view on FixingDad.tv from Monday 25 July. 

“It has been a roller coaster, but Dad proved that type 2 diabetes is a reversible condition – you just have to want it enough,” Anthony says. In fact, Geoff has become an ambassador for the condition and regularly talks about his achievements at conferences around Europe.

“It has gone a bit crazy,” Anthony says. The duo will be talking aboutFixing Dad at the Prudential RideLondon Cycling Show at ExCel London, for the three days leading up to the challenge on 31 July.

This year father and son will be raising money for The Paula Carr Diabetes Trust – a small charity supporting people in Kent and Medway who are living with diabetes. To support Geoff and his son visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/FixingDad.

Geoff adds: “Cycling has transformed me – I have never felt as fit. I’ve got the whole family cycling, too, and they have all lost some weight now, all thanks to this project.

“An awful lot of diabetics who have followed the story have taken up cycling as a result – and that’s what the boys wanted. To inspire other people was the ultimate aim. I’m very proud of them.”

We exercise by riding a bike, while overcoming our physical illness.In the journey, don't forget to wear helmets to ensure personal safety.

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