Luke Grenfell Shaw, now in India, promised himself that if he recovered, he would cycle around the world.


New Delhi: One of the best moments in cancer survivor Luke Grenfell Shaw’s life came recently at a festival in north India’s Kurukshetra, where he ended up savouring street food for hours without a care in the world.
Shaw, who after fighting stage 4 cancer (sarcoma) for two years, embarked on an ambitious 30,000 kilometre journey on a bicycle from Bristol (UK) to Beijing (China), is currently pedalling across the length and breadth of India.
In 2018, when doctors told Shaw about the illness (rare and aggressive), that it had already spread to his lungs, he didn’t think he would see Christmas. Life was no more the same for Shaw, he had to rethink about his tomorrow but on that day, his eyes were clear and he had one thought on his mind.
“After I was diagnosed with cancer, I promised myself that if I recover, I will cycle around the world,” said 26-year-old Shaw who successfully defeated the deadly disease.
Shaw began his journey on 1 January 2020 from his home in Bristol (UK) and has since crossed many countries on his bicycle. He has already pedalled 22,000 km in the last 18 months and is currently on the last leg of his journey.
“When I was diagnosed with cancer I realised that I had a choice, either I give up on life and complain about how unfair it was to me and how I lost all the opportunities or I accept the situation and move on,” said Shaw with a smile on his face.
Shaw had a desire, to live richly and fully, that inspired him to take upon a journey with a tandem cycle (two seats) of 75 kg. “Being diagnosed with cancer made me realise that I have to do it now,” Shaw said passionately.
Shaw’s desire to live richly has made him overcome many emotions, many struggles, and many kilometres. He has travelled 22,000 kilometres so far and is 8,000 km away from Beijing. He has travelled through hot and humid summer and through biting cold winter (Ukraine was Shaw’s coldest journey).
“Every day, I meet so many people and every day is completely different,” Shaw said. But the journey hasn’t been easy. Shaw had to travel alone in Ukraine with his heavy cycle and go through lifeless streets of Germany (Covid lockdown).
While going through Germany, Shaw had stopped by the roadside to have a cup of coffee—just then an old woman opened her window and started shouting at Shaw.
“Go away and do not hang out on the road, the police will take you,” the old lady said. This made Shaw contemplate his journey, for he felt a moment of “in-betweenness”. Since the inception of his journey, he has never undercut his faith in himself, he did not surrender to passing emotions and carried on.
He has met thousands of people on the trip. An interesting experience he had was in Croatia. “I was cycling through the roads of Croatia, I had three punctures in my bicycle. I had to stop.”
“I was stranded in a small village after dusk, it was dark, I was there on the road and suddenly a car drove up next to me and three big guys stepped out of the car.” Shaw taken aback for a moment, the air was filled with uncertainty, he thought he was in imminent danger.
“When they came out, they said how can we help you? We just saw you and your cycle has broken down by the side of the road,” Shaw said. After helping Shaw, they spent time with him. “We had a wonderful evening together, eating, drinking and telling stories,” said Shaw.
His journey has seen many ups and downs, yet he humbly smiles at people who stare at him with curiosity. And often stops when onlookers ask him for a photograph. When in Pakistan, people were constantly watching him. “Pakistani people are curious to know about a white guy.”
Shaw enjoys being close to nature and relishes a place with a lot of mountains, “I liked Azerbaijan the most,” he said. Shaw has collaborated with five charity organisations across the world to raise funds for the treatment of cancer patients.
In India, the collaboration has been with the charity organisation “CanKids”. Shaw cycled into India from Pakistan through the Wagah border on 6 December. He enjoyed the mountains in Pakistan. Dev Mukherjee, who represents the CanKids, joined Shaw in Ludhiana on 10 December. Mukherjee is a survivor of leukaemia.
“I got a call from CanKids, they told me, there is a person cycling from Bristol to Beijing and I had to join him,” 17-year-old Mukherjee said.
But, on that day, when he had to start off his journey with Shaw, Mukherjee was not ready. On normal days, Mukherjee would not be allowed by his mother to cycle around, and he never cycled for more than 5 kilometres at a stretch. To what Mukherjee responded with a grin, “A bunch of restrictions within Indian families.”
Once he became aware of Shaw’s story he wondered why he wouldn’t be allowed to cycle 500 kilometres. “Shaw has been travelling for 18 months—he is riding 30,000 kilometres and has already crossed 20,000 kilometres,” Mukherjee told his mother. His mother finally gave her permission, and Mukherjee who calls himself a “fat guy” says he couldn’t have done it if it weren’t for his mother’s love, Shaw’s passion, and for a cause to raise funds for the needy.
Mukherjee said, “We would start at 10:00 am and cycle 100 kilometres a day, and try to complete our day’s journey between five to six hours.” “Shaw continues to choose difficult paths, he challenges himself, when there is a flyover and a straight road, he says let’s go from up,” Mukherjee said.
Mukherjee is an ethical hacker and works with national cyber security. Presently, he is completing his forensic psychology degree. His journey with Shaw was only up to Delhi. Shaw’s next stop is Kolkata. In Bristol, his family is waiting for him to come back with the “feat” of having “cycled the globe”.
After he reaches Beijing and completes what he had set out for, he is going to write a book and make a documentary of his life’s journey.
Luke Grenfell Shaw is sharing the journey with other people and is raising 300,000 euros for five cancer-related charities of which CanKids is one. His message for people through The Sunday Guardian is, “You don’t know how long you got to live, live your best life today, create your own opportunities and follow ‘Bristol to Beijing’ on social media.”