London, Oct.10 : Twenty-three years after first undertaking a walk for the advancement of leukemia research, former England cricketer Ian "Beefy" Botham says that the cash that he has raised as a result has "been worth every toe-blistering mile."
In an article for The Mirror, Botham says that back in 1985, children had just a 20 per cent chance of survival. Now it is an incredible 86 per cent.
"On each walk I see living proof of the huge strides we have taken - former patients who were in wheelchairs and prams when I first met them. Now, I'm struggling to keep up with them as they join me on the road - some with children of their own who would never have been born if it hadn't been for the crucial research into this cruel disease. That's the biggest buzz of all when they walk alongside me because I know it has all been worthwhile, that we have made a difference," he says.
All the money raised from my walks goes to world class research into leukaemia and other blood cancers, which is done around the UK, he says, adding "we have funded their pioneering work since the first walk and all the money has gone to making sure more kids survive."
"Now we are taking it on to new stages and it is producing the goods," he says.
An incredible one in three people in this country are affected by one form of cancer or another. And if you can beat leukaemia then who knows what doors you can open with other forms of cancer?
He recalls the time 31 years ago when he walked into a hospital in Taunton, Somerset, and was told about children suffering from leukemia and not having a chance in hell of survival. That, he said, spurred him to use his popularity as a cricketer, to commence his walks for leukemia research and survival.
"To be told there was nothing that could be done for them was heartbreaking, so I found out more about the disease and started to get involved. My wife Kath and I began organising parties for terminally ill patients, but at that stage they were so drugged up they didn't know whether it was their birthday or Christmas. After a couple of years we decided we wanted to do something a bit more positive - and that's where the idea of the walks came f
rom," Botham says.
So far, he says he has walked 8,000 miles and raised about 12 million pounds. "As long as it works and raises money, I'll keep walking. And together we can beat childhood leukaemia," he concludes.