TR Press UK - 01-07-2019

"No parent should have to watch their child die"

"The more parents who won't have to experience their child dying, the better". That's how Roger Bäcklund describes his involvement in the team and why this project is so close to his heart. Six years ago to the day, on the same day as the start of Tour de Paris, Roger's daughter passed away from skin cancer.

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Team Rynkeby project is most likely a trail of cyclists all wearing yellow, travelling along a country road. What we might not think of as often are the hundreds of people who put an enormous amount of time and effort behind the scenes of the Tour de Paris. Not only do the Service Team take care of all the logistics, planning and coordination along the journey, they also make sure that all the cyclists are ok. 

Necessary functions
The Service Team consists of a number of people who handle the food, water and packing logistics for the cyclists. It also has mechanics who service the bikes, medics who help if necessary and motorcyclists who act as guides.

- The Service Team works on a schedule where everything is planned down to the last detail, such as what is included in every meal to getting sponsorships for plates, glasses and plastic crates. Our work also involves making the tour comfortable for the cyclists, as we always try to work with cohesion in different ways, says Elisabeth J Malmström, who is doing her first year on the TRGM Jönköping Service Team.

It's important that we spur each other on
She goes on to say that the Service Team has a different theme every day where they come up with fun surprises for the participants.

- It is really important to show humility towards others and to make sure the cyclists are doing well on the way down. We try to support, encourage and hug the ones who need it the most as much as we can. I really want to encourage people to join a team, regardless of whether you are cycling or not. I get so much out of it and I am so happy I applied, she says and mentions that it was one of her friends who asked her to join;

- I was asked to be the Service Manager by the Captain of the team, and was quite hesitant to accept initially as I would be completely new. But, because of Lucas, it felt like the right thing to do, says Elisabeth.

The boy who didn't survive
Elisabeth's nephew Lucas was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 3. Almost 22 years have passed since then, but Elisabeth remembers it well.

- It was horrible to see him lying there, with tubes coming out of his body. He was put on a really tough treatment and spent a lot of time in hospital. "I don't want this fucking life", he said when he had to spend his birthday in his hospital bed. What do you say to that? It felt so incredibly cruel, and he was being so brave. But he didn't make it. That's why it feels so important to do this.

Lucas was only six years old when he lost his life to cancer.

Roger is honouring his daughter
Roger Bäckmark is one of the motorcyclists guiding TRGM Jönköping to Paris. On Saturday, the start of the tour, it was six years to the day since he lost his daughter to skin cancer.

- Elin was in her final year at school when she noticed a small mark on her arm. The staff at the medical center didn't think there was cause for concern, but Elin insisted on having it removed anyway. It was sent for analysis and not long after, we were told the terrible news, he says.

Elin was suffering from a malignant type of skin cancer, malignant melanoma. After being treated initially, she was treatment-free for a few years. But then she got a pneumonia.

- Everything happened so fast after that. She knew she wasn't going to make it, so we would take turns to stay with her every night. How do you tell her smaller siblings that their big sister is going to die? Having to gather them on the couch to tell them was terrible. They idolised her. The two youngest sisters still visit her grave every day.

No parent should have to watch their child die
A month after her diagnosis, Elin passed away. She was 20 years old.

- When someone dies, they leave a completely broken family behind. Elin was so passionate, so enthusiastic and such a genuinely kind person. It is so unfair she isn't here anymore.

Roger explains that the biggest reason for him being involved in the project is, of course, Elin.

- No parent should have to watch their child die. The more parents who won't have to hold their child's hand as they take their dying breath, the better. The money we raise really makes a big difference. Not so long ago, only 20 percent of children survived cancer. Today, 85 percent of them survive. It feels great being able to help make a difference.

Text: Martina Mårlind 
Foto: Sofia Schaub

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