Ecuador’s Yenny Yulisa Jenkins (and friends) on raising money for Macmillan at the Dragon Ride this year

Ecuador’s Yenny Yenny Yulisa Jenkins helped raise a total of £1,100 for Macmillan at the Dragon Ride last year, as part of a group of strong women whose friendship became even stronger after the experience. Their decision to ride the Dragon Ride and raise money for Macmillan came after their friend Sandra was diagnosed with cancer. Remarkably, they rode with Sandra all the way – and plan to do it all again next year! Read the incredible story below.

Yenny’s Story

I am originally from Ecuador but moved to Spain some years ago, where I met my husband who is from Wales. We then moved to the UK, where I first began cycling to commute to work from my home in North London. Back then, it was just as a way of going from ‘A’ to ‘B’ really. However, when we moved to Wales, I realised how much cycling had helped me to keep fit. In Wales, most people drive to work, so I began to miss the exercise and fitness cycling had given me (although I didn’t miss the car fumes of central London!)

So, while adapting to life in Wales, I started to get out on my bike again for exercise, as well as doing more walking with friends from our religious community, one of whom is called Sandra. It was around this time in 2022 that Sandra’s husband entered the Dragon Ride, an event we had all heard was challenging. In fact, we thought it was so difficult that only men could do it – something which seems ridiculous now! It was soon after that time that Sandra was diagnosed with cancer – a huge shock to our close-knit group. She started to receive care from Macmillan, who were brilliant and supported her a lot through what was an inevitably difficult time. So, when the Dragon Ride was mentioned again later, of course, we decided that we were going to take part in the Macmillan distance and raise money for this amazing charity. We thought to ourselves: “we have a year to train. We can do this if we keep improving our fitness, and we’ll make Sandra proud”.

What we didn’t know was that Sandra would actually end up riding the Dragon Ride with us, which is a real testament to her strength of character. Although she went through chemotherapy and lost all of her hair, Sandra was quick to get back out on her bike to start training with us. She was so positive during this time; she said “come on, I can get through this! We can do this, together!” All of this cycling was, of course medically approved; Sandra’s doctor encouraged it and even suggested that it could lead to a faster recovery. It was also a great way for her to relieve some stress – otherwise I think she would have bitten her husband’s head off! I believe that we stayed very motivated with Sandra by our side during this time. We also used a WhatsApp group to update each other on our training, which held us all accountable and became a great support hub.

When the big day arrived in June this year, we were ready to take on the 98km, having raised £1,100 for Macmillan collectively. We rode together from start to finish, helping each other get through the tough parts, and enjoying the beautiful scenery on the flats and downhills. We weren’t the quickest of riders, but many of those who overtook us would shout things like “Go on team Macmillan!” This created a real sense of unity and support on the course. When we went through the finish line, we felt absolutely elated. The sense of accomplishment was like nothing I had experienced before. We enjoyed the festival like ‘after-party’ of music, food, and picture-taking – the atmosphere was so incredible, we stayed for a long time afterwards until it was time to go home.

Overall, we all had so much fun at the Dragon Ride and the challenge made our friendship and community even stronger. To experience all of that while raising money to support the good work of Macmillan – also with the emotional connection to the charity through Sandra – is something really special. We immediately signed up to take part in the 2024 event, with the aim to raise money for Macmillan once more and also to beat our previous time. Sandra’s health continues to be good, although she still must have special treatment to suppress certain hormones, which bring its own challenges. However, we continue to support Macmillan not only for those close to us, but also for others currently suffering from cancer and those who will do in the future. Even if we can make a small difference, we hope to be able to make this devastating disease a little more manageable for all those affected.