Bedford restaurateur takes on iconic 120-mile walk inspired by friend’s brain tumour battle

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Gerald Santaniello and Eddie Adams

The owner of one of Bedford’s most well-established and popular pizzerias is taking on a 120-mile walk inspired by his friend’s brain tumour battle.

Gerald Santaniello, 70, is the owner of Pizzeria Santaniello, which has been at the heart of the Bedford food scene and the town’s Italian community for 40 years.

He will be taking on the Camino de Santiago walk across Spain to raise money for Brain Tumour Research to support Eddie Adams, his friend – and part of his ‘gang’ – who has been given three to five years to live following his diagnosis with a grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma.

Read: Bedford man ‘on borrowed time’ joins demands for an increase in brain tumour research funding

Originally a pilgrimage dating back to the early 9th century, the Camino de Santiago consists of a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe which join together at the tomb of St James in Santiago de Compostela, north-west Spain.

Every year hundreds of thousands of people walk the same routes forged over a thousand years ago, often to raise much-needed funds for charitable causes.

You can sponsor Gerald here.

A relative newcomer to long-distance walking, Gerald will be tackling the final 120-mile stretch of the pilgrimage and is raising funds for Brain Tumour Research and the Epilepsy Society.

Setting off on 5 April, he’ll need to walk around 20 miles each day and is aiming to complete the challenge in six days.

His training has begun with longer walks around Bedfordshire, in an effort to prepare himself for the challenge ahead.

Gerald’s grandchildren will be cheering him on from Bedford

“I’ve never done any walking so I’m not going straight into it,” said Gerald.

“I’m doing a little bit of training, a few miles each day building up to April. I had a bad back over Christmas so only started walking in mid-January but I’m already up to five or six miles from just one or two.

“I’m going to do one big walk of 15-18 miles before I go and, once I’ve done that, I’ll know I can do it.

“Plus, when I’m there the adrenaline will kick in and push me along, I’m sure. I’ve got the determination and know I’ll get it done for Eddie and other brain tumour patients.”

Eddie Adams has become a high-profile Brain Tumour Research campaigner, fronting a national campaign to raise awareness of the disease.

Eddie was part of Brain Tumour Research’s nationwide awareness campaign

The former drag queen came third in the reality TV show Ru Paul’s Drag Race in 2015 and was diagnosed with a grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma after suffering a seizure in August 2017.

He was 29 years old and given a prognosis of three to five years.

Eddie underwent an awake craniotomy and a subsequent surgery to remove part of his skull after he developed a life-threatening infection, which left him with a misshapen head and permanent hair loss.

He went on to have radiotherapy and chemotherapy before making the difficult decision to cease treatment so that he could enjoy the time he had left.

Gerald, a father-of-four who will be joined on the Camino de Santiago by two friends, said: “Eddie went to school with my children and his father is my best friend. I’ve seen him grow up and he’s part of my gang.

“He’s an exceptional character and so full of life, even in the situation he finds himself in he’s such fun to be with.

“It’s so sad to see what this illness is inflicting on him and I know there are lots of others like him around the country. I think with him and them in mind we’ll push ourselves hard.”

Gerald and Eddie 

Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.

Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: “We really admire the way Eddie has turned his brain tumour journey into a call for action.

“Not only has he shared his story to raise awareness of the devastating disease but he was one of the stars of our hard-hitting Stop the Devastation campaign, which exposed the historic underfunding of research into the disease.

“We appreciate his continued support and that of his friend, Gerald, who we hope will enjoy his 120-mile fundraising challenge.”

To support Gerald’s fundraising, visit justgiving.com/crowdfunding/geralds-camino.