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Last Updated: Friday, 1 September 2006, 21:57 GMT 22:57 UK
Looking forward to a Leeds return
By Guto Harri
BBC News in Brooklyn

Cancer sufferer Jane Tomlinson of Leeds, in Yorkshire, has completed an epic 4,200 mile bike ride across the US.

Jane Tomlinson reaches Staten Island, New York
Mrs Tomlinson is keen to get home to Yorkshire

"Bless you," said the Polish waitress as I coughed. It was 0820 and I'd cycled nine miles to get to her cafe. A fruit salad and a coffee had revived me but I wasn't feeling my best.

Then the door opened and Jane Tomlinson walked in - slight, short and clad in tight cycling gear which emphasised her small stature.

Even there, in the tough neighbourhood of Brooklyn, however, she looked tough. Six years ago, doctors gave her six months to live. Diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, many in her position would have given up. She moved up a gear.

I didn't expect to bump into the 42-year-old mother of three at that point but I knew she'd be crossing Brooklyn Bridge at 0900.

Last leg

That short, scenic hop into Manhattan has inspired millions of people over the years. Scaling its wooden boards was often the end of a turbulent journey across continents for countless immigrants in the past.

When we set out, it felt like it would be a huge adventure but it's actually been quite an ordeal
Jane Tomlinson

For Mrs Tomlinson, it was the last leg of a 4,200 mile journey which began with a long ride across another bridge, the Golden Gate of San Francisco.

"When we set out, it felt like it would be a huge adventure but it's actually been quite an ordeal."

Jane Tomlinson seems more relieved than elated when she finally pedals down the last 100m along the Hudson river. A handful of supporters applaud limply. There is some champagne.

But what she wants most is a hug from son Stephen, nine, and her husband Mike.

"I wouldn't have started, to be honest, if Michael hadn't been with me and Stephen's actually been very encouraging along the way. He's probably the reason why I finished."

A few days ago, she hit a bad patch. Her health seemed close to breaking. Media opportunities were pulled.

"Sometimes we didn't think we'd be here," she says without going into detail. But "just getting on the bike again and again" had clearly been a challenge over time.

Ploughing on

Mrs Tomlinson's husband often tried to talk her out of it.

"We told her about 20 times to give up and not continue because she was going through too much pain on a lot of the journey but, like always, she was right and ignored me," he said.

One major motivation for ploughing on was to raise money. The target was 1m.

But this was also about the triumph of the human spirit, defying the doctors and a terminal disease which scares most people rigid.

"I have enjoyed some of the things I've done and the physical feats I've done but I'm sure there are things that other people can do in their lives that they'll enjoy which will give them a more positive outlook when they have quite a bleak future."

Sometimes you just count down the miles - and there's a lot of them to count down
Jane Tomlinson

That spirit has seen Mrs Tomlinson through a number of marathons and triathlons on both sides of the Atlantic before this latest ordeal. Two friends joined her on this trip but it was still a solitary exercise.

"What did you think about?" I asked, immediately regretting such an insensitive question to someone who might not have long to live.

"Sometimes you just count down the miles - and there's a lot of them to count down."

"And other times?"

"You count down the miles again!"

I leave her with the family, looking forward to a night in New York, but far more eager to get home to Leeds.


SEE ALSO
Jane 'may not reach the finish'
30 Aug 06 |  West Yorkshire
Blair's praise for cyclist Jane
28 Aug 06 |  West Yorkshire
Jane 'hanging on by fingernails'
13 Aug 06 |  West Yorkshire
Jane hits high point on epic ride
24 Jul 06 |  West Yorkshire
Jane attacked during US bike ride
20 Jul 06 |  West Yorkshire
Jane begins epic bike challenge
29 Jun 06 |  West Yorkshire

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