A Pilgrimage

By Rebecca Simpson

Ricardo Martins with his partner Donna and brother-in-law Marco are embarking on a once in a lifetime experience, walking from Lagos to the pilgrimage town of Fátima.

Starting from Lagos train station, over an eight-day stretch, they are walking the 361 km all the way to the cathedral in Fátima. This extreme walking road trip is part of a much larger cause.

In October 2004, at the age of 31, after feeling unwell for some time, Ricardo was diagnosed with Hairy Cell Leukemia. This incredibly rare form of the disease had not been identified in Portugal before. After undergoing a very intensive and unique chemotherapy programme, which was previously only administered in Japan and the USA, the outcome of Ricardo’s treatment was somewhat unknown.

Ricardo was the first patient in Portugal to receive this type of highly intensive chemotherapy. After further treatment, including blood transfusions and more but less intensive chemotherapy, Ricardo consulted with his doctor and asked him how long he thought he had left to live with this potentially terminal illness. The doctor replied saying that his survival was ultimately down to his state of mind and the “man upstairs”.

After this discussion, Ricardo decided to visit Fátima where he promised himself that for every year he survived Leukemia, he would go to Fatima and light a candle. With this as Ricardo’s driving force he decided he wanted to make a bigger sacrifice by walking from his hometown in Lagos.

During his time in hospital 15 years ago, Ricardo witnessed first-hand the incredible financial sacrifices families have to make to be near their children when they’re hospitalised. With nowhere to stay nearby and no government funding, these families struggle to afford the rent and expenses of being away from home at this awful time in their lives. Ricardo made a promise to himself and his doctors that if he survived, he’d raise money and awareness of this issue by walking from his home to the pilgrimage town of Fátima.

The charity he has chosen is the Portuguese Association Against Leukemia (APCL), which was founded in January 2002. It was the initiative of a group of patients who survived Hemato-Oncological pathologies (leukaemias and lymphomas) and a group of doctors from the Portuguese Institute of Oncology Francisco Gentil (IPOFG) in Lisbon, who treated them.

The main motivation of the APCL founders was based on their understanding of the importance of raising awareness and mobilising civil society in support of all those who struggle daily against the devastating disease that is leukaemia. APCL’s mission is to contribute, at a national level, to increase the effectiveness of the treatment of leukaemias and other related haematological disorders.

This charity was chosen because Ricardo feels the association is important as it assists with funding for families and children that don’t have resources and can stay together during treatment. Apartments are currently being built in Lisbon; the funds being raised by Ricardo, Donna and Marco will help to furnish this accommodation.

Along with some friends joining them at various stages of the walk, Ricardo, Donna and Marco will set off from Lagos on 14 May and are set to arrive in Fátima on 21 May. Algarve Sports Therapy has offered to join the trio throughout their journey in order to assist with any possible injuries that may or may not occur!


14/5 – Lagos / Odeceixe
15/5 – Odeceixe / Mil Fontes
16/5 – Mil Fontes / Santiago do Cacém
17/5 – Santiago do Cacém / Alcácer do Sal
18/5 – Alcácer do Sal / Vendas Novas
19/5 – Vendas Novas / Coruche
20/5 – Coruche / Santarém, Qunita do Anjos
21/5 – Santarém, Quinta dos Anjos / Fátima Santuário



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