We are thrilled to welcome Team Syren to the 2024 Everest in the Alps challenge. This incredible team of five, from countries around the world, will gather in Switzerland to put their minds and bodies to the test. Read on to get to know two members a little better, and to find out their motivations to take on this epic adventure.
Who are you?
MB: I’m Martin Bell, Alexander and Hannah’s father and Katie’s husband. In 2021, after over a year of terrible headaches and sickness, Alex was diagnosed aged 20 with an extremely rare form of brain cancer called Diffuse Leptomeningeal Glioneuronal Tumours (DLGNT), a type of paediatric low-grade glioma (pLGG). Although I am British, I grew up in Madrid, Spain and consider myself proudly British and Spanish by heart. I’m an engineer by education, and have worked in the oil and gas space all my life which has allowed me to travel around the world and meet some fantastic friends, some of whom have been generous enough to join me on this crazy and wonderful adventure, Everest in the Alps!
PTC: Pablo Tejera Cuesta. A passionate father of two beautiful boys (Brisco, 11, and Grey, 9) – whose desire is to become the next Wayne Gretzky (something I unfortunately cannot help guiding since ice hockey is not in my blood!) – and happily married to my soul mate, Luma. Spanish by birth, global citizen by heart, thanks to many years of travelling the world which have allowed me to live in seven countries and visit many many more. My passion has always been in sports, and although my football and triathlon careers died early through injuries including two hip surgeries, pushing myself through pain has been a constant in my life. Doctor in Engineering by education, I currently spend my time between Canada (where my family is) and Brasil (where my awesome job running some of the world´s best O&G assets is). I have been a very close friend with Martin since we met 23 years ago and hit it off running. We have gone through a lot together and will continue to do so.
What’s your inspiration for taking on such an epic challenge?
MB: My inspiration for facing the Everest in the Alps Challenge is driven from Alexander, his cancer diagnosis and his journey to date. It has been, in many ways, something very much like climbing Everest – only MUCH MUCH harder and with much more severe consequences. When Katie and Alex first suggested the Everest in the Alps Challenge, I thought it was something I could never even consider doing. Then I quickly realised, there was no way I couldn’t…
PTC: My inspiration is Alex and all the kids out there that have been diagnosed with brain cancer and have to go through an unknown and scary journey so early in their lives. The way these kids show up and the resilience they demonstrate is truly inspirational to me. As a father of two young kids, I cannot imagine how devastating it would be to hear they have been diagnosed knowing the battle they would then have to face. I simply wish no one had to, ever, go through something like this and that’s why raising funds to end this monster is so important to me. Martin and Katie have also been incredible inspirations to me. The way they took it upon themselves to lead and coordinate research across multiple countries, connecting some of the best doctors and hospitals in the world, fighting to ensure Alex (and all the other kids out there with the same diagnosis) got the best possible care was inspirational. Understanding DLGNT is still in its infancy but, thanks to Martin and Katie, the goal to address it is closer.
What draws you to Everest in the Alps?
MB: Everest in the Alps is an extreme alpine challenge, set up by Rob Ritchie in 2015, to raise money for brain tumour research after his son Toby was diagnosed with a low-grade brain tumour at the age of five. Since 2015, Rob has raised in excess of £5m which lead to the setting-up of The Everest Centre, the largest single investment globally in low-grade paediatric brain tumours. The Everest Centre brings together an international, multi-disciplinary team of leading experts, collaborating across the UK, Europe and the USA.
We are looking for all the support we can get to make this massive challenge a huge success for brain tumour research. A few not so fun facts:
· Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under 40
· Brain tumours reduce life expectancy by 27 years on average – the highest of any cancer
· Only 12% of adults survive for 5 years after diagnosis
· Brain tumour research represents only 1% of the national spend on cancer
We have partnered with the Brain Tumour Charity in the UK, with the Paediatric Brain Tumour Foundation (PBTF or Cure the Kids) in the United States and with Kindred Foundation in Canada. With Everest in the Alps, I realise each and every one of us possess the power to change lives and contribute to pioneering research that offers hope to families like ours.
PTC: To do my little bit to contribute to help to raise funds for research to fight against DLGNT and be there to support Martin, Alex and their family. Doing a once in a lifetime challenge in an incredible setting with a group of like-minded individuals, forging life lasting relationships and tackling this monster is as good as it gets! I am in!
Have you ever done anything like this before?
MB: No, this is completely new to me. I have skied all my life – but downhill skiing is easy compared to this. It’s an entirely new challenge – a bit like Alexander discovering he had a brain tumour – daunting and scary. The difference is that we have options. Alex and so many other people don’t and that is why we need everybody’s help to raise funds for the research required to crack these types of cancers.
PTC: I have never ski toured in my life, not even once so, no! Having said that, I am an avid athlete who loves challenges, so this one is up my ally. I look forward to both the physical and mental challenge and supporting each other along the way – it’s a much much easier journey than the one Alex is enduring.
How are you tackling the training?
MB: For me, this has been probably one of the hardest lifts because, compared to my teammates, I was probably coming from the lowest base – weighing 97 Kg and doing a 30 min jog once or twice a week as a starting point. It has been a struggle, but I’m now exercising every day for an hour or more and consuming vast amounts of calories. I started in August, and I feel it has already transformed my life. I’m running 10kms per day now, hiking 700-1000m vertical and also fitting in some swimming. I’m looking forward to starting ski touring soon!
PTC: I am trying to mix endurance (biking, swimming) and weights to ensure I can handle the massive climbs and minimise the risk of injuries which, unfortunately, my body is prone to. When in Brazil, I am doing 3-4 weekly long uphill rides from sea level all the way to Christ the Redeemer (yes, I am incredibly lucky to be able to do that!) and whilst when I am in Canada, I do long swims 3-4 times a week. I look forward to ski touring for the first time over the Christmas break, hopefully I will get the hang of it quickly!
What are you most looking forward to?
MB: Honestly, it’s the bonding and the people who I am going to be doing this with. This will be a singular experience – oh, and I may be able to justify a bit of wine and a Swiss fondue if we’re burning that much energy! Additionally, there is the motivation I get from fundraising and raising awareness. We’ve built a great following online and through social media, which my amazing wife Katie leads with the support of Alex, and we all have his brilliant music to accompany us!
PTC: Raising a lot of money for research, bonding with the people I am doing this (three of which I don’t know!), building long lasting relationships, and enjoying the challenge.
Does anything scare you about the event?
MB: My biggest fear is having an injury before the event or not being able to complete the task. I’ve never done anything like this and it really is massively intimidating. We have to conquer Everest in the Alps in much the same way I know that we have to conquer paediatric brain tumours!
PTC: Not being able to complete it (or even get there) because of an injury and letting my team and Alex down.
Team Syren are raising money for the Brain Tumour Charity in the UK, the Paediatric Brain Tumour Foundation (PBTF or Cure the Kids) in the United States, and Kindred Foundation in Canada.
You can support them below: