A Derry woman who cycled 1400kms around Ireland in 14 days as part of the Cycle Against Suicide has said she is “relieved and overwhelmed” to have completed the mammoth challenge which, she said, was “incredibly tough” at times.
Monica Fee took on the Cycle Against Suicide challenge in memory of her brother, Kieran, who took his own life last year.
Understandably as she faced many miles on the open road, in treacherous weather conditions, the Drumahoe hairdresser said she had to face many of her demons.
With the honesty ‘Derry Journal’ readers have come to expect from Monica’s blog, she said there were times, especially in the earlier stages of the cycle, where she felt she was part of an endurance test and was crippled with homesickness.
“The first two days were fine, as we were cycling back to Derry, but after that - I think I cried from Strabane to Omagh.
“I felt alone - and I think I had to deal with a lot of feelings about Kieran and what had happened.
“I had never been away from my family before - and certainly not for two weeks. And of course I was still grieving and I removed myself from my safety net.
“It wasn’t until I was eight days in, and posted a blog post that things changed.
“One of the other cyclists mentioned the beauty of Mizen Head and I realised I had been treating the whole thing as something to get through - not something to enjoy.
“I made a conscious effort to start enjoying it then - to start noticing the coast, the bluebells, everything around me. And it clicked then.”
With dogged determination Monica was adament she would never get on the bus which supported the cyclists - and she made her way through tough terrains including mountain climbs.
The weather was also, she said, very much against the cyclists.
“The weather was brutal. Most days we were cycling in lashing rain against strong cross winds. Living out of a suitcase with damp and smelly clothes was no fun at all.”
But it was the welcome of the people of Ireland as the team reached every destination, as well as the camaraderie of her fellow cyclists, which kept her going.
“People would come out cheering, playing instruments, welcoming us in and telling us their stories.
“And the other cyclists were always there to keep you going when you had a bad day.”
Most importantly, Monica feels the cycle really does help people tackle the stigma of suicide and help those who are left behind.
“There is no stigma in how Kieran died. He didn’t take his own life.
“His illness took his choice away. It’s so important that we get this message across.”
Monica was greeted at the finish line in Dublin by family and friends including her husband, Adrian, and she decided to spend the night in Dublin to ease her aches and pains.
She said, “I’ve achieved more than myself or anyone could imagine.”