Alan Robson, who is hoping to receive a life-saving liver transplant, has organised a bikeathon for the British Liver Trust to raise awareness of the stigma he experienced.
Alan, who uses a wheelchair, will start the event on a peddle exerciser at Kings Meaburn Village Hall at 10am on Sunday, 28th August. Family, friends and staff from the Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle, will then do 30-minute or one-hour stints on a static bike, and his sister, Fran Hughes, will sell chips and bacon butties.
Alan gave up alcohol without any help or support in November last year when told he had just eight months to live if he didn’t stop drinking.
He said: “I want to make the fundraiser as successful as possible because I could die tomorrow. When my doctor said I could do it, I bawled because it means so much to me. My energy levels have never been so high and I’m bursting with excitement about Sunday. A year ago I wasn’t physically or mentally strong enough to do this, now the hospital says I’m one step closer to getting a new liver.
“I got the idea for the fundraiser from the liver transplant assessment where you’re asked to cycle for six minutes. I’ve adapted my wheelchair so I can use a peddle exerciser and feel like the lord of the manor sat there.”
Alan and Fran are passionate supporters of the British Liver Trust’s campaign to Stamp out Stigma and he bravely shared his story with them of his former alcohol dependence and the negative comments he received.
Alan said: “I’ve experienced so much stigma and became unemployable. I felt like I was being judged all the time and it made me feel small and dirty, so I hid in my bedroom and didn’t go out. Everyone has their problems, so who has the right to talk?”
Fran said: “We need to stop the stigma, I feel really strongly about this. It’s so easy for people to say why should we raise money when he did this to himself, but there’s a lot more to it. Anyone could go through what Alan did. Rather than saying ‘Urgh, he’s an alcoholic,’ think about why he did that. There’s a whole story behind what he’s been through.”
According to new British Liver Trust’s research, almost three-quarters of people living with liver disease have experienced stigma following their diagnosis and one in four have put off seeking medical help for fear of blame for their condition. Negative attitudes harboured by people towards liver disease patients lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, impacting their mental health.
Vanessa Hebditch, Director at the British Liver Trust, said: “We’re touched and grateful that Alan has chosen to raise money for our charity and wish him, Fran and everyone taking part in the bikeathon, every success on Sunday.
“Many people in the UK drink alcohol at levels that could cause liver damage and it’s really important that people with any type of liver disease should be supported and not judged. It is heart-breaking that Alan and so many others with liver disease, who are already dealing with a devastating diagnosis, have experienced negative attitudes which affect their sense of self-worth and mental health.
“Liver damage develops silently with no signs or symptoms until it is too late, so if we can end the stigma faced by people with liver disease, we will ensure that more people come forward to get tested and treated at an early stage.”
People are invited to support the British Liver Trust's campaign by adding their name here: https://britishlivertrust.org.uk/stamp-out-stigma