On 21st April 2018 my dad rang me to say that mum wasn’t feeling well, her kidney wasn’t working properly, so she had it removed on 1st May.
On 14th May I went to see her recovering in bed at home. Trying to make her laugh, as I left I said, "Big plans this week?". "Oh yes, big plans", she laughed. Her plan that week, as it turned out, was to find out that her 'dodgy kidney' was actually cancer. By the time we found it, it had spread all over her body.
She died on 23 May, just 32 days after she first felt ill.
Cancer can be brutal, swift, and merciless. But amazing work is being done to combat this disease. While doctors were exploring the possible treatments for my mum, we came across an immunotherapy trial that would have been our only option. Sadly, things progressed too quickly for her and we were never able to explore this route.
But with more research and funding, trials like the one my mum could have had will become the norm. Lives will be saved.
Immunotherapy uses the immune system to fight cancer. By helping the immune system recognise cancer cells, it’s possible to create more powerful, targeted and long-lasting treatments that can be applied to almost all cancers. It has the potential to be the most powerful and effective form of cancer treatment.
Over 50% of children/young adults with leukaemia are ‘cured’ by a single dose
Right now, a team at the UCL Cancer Institute are furthering their work in developing immunotherapy treatments for patients who have exhausted all other options and a future where immunotherapy replaces traditional chemotherapies is looking ever more likely.
Led by Dr Martin Pule and Dr Claire Roddie ground breaking research into CAR-T cell therapy is being conducted. Their work in this area has already seen phenomenal results with blood cancers: in some studies, over 50% of children/young adults with leukaemia are ‘cured’ by a single dose.
They want to take this further and test their belief that CAR-T cell therapy can work on solid cancers.
Charitable campaign – 'Cancer. We’re done.'
I started 'Cancer. We’re done.' when I saw the potential immunotherapy has to change the way we treat cancers and, in doing so, save countless lives.
I’ve seen cancer affect far too many people – both patients and their families – and I’m ‘done’ with it. And I know millions of others are too.
'Cancer. We’re done.' is a charitable campaign working to raise funds to support the further research into CAR-T cell therapy on solid cancers, firstly liver cancer. I’m well aware that funding research is a tricky thing: there are no guarantees and it’s a long-term game.
(Above) We're all done with Cancer. (Bottom left) Imogen Beecroft, founder of 'Cancer. We're done.'
At the same time, there are people suffering now who don’t have time to wait for a treatment or cure to be developed. Therefore, I decided that 90% of our funds should go to UCL and 10% should go to supporting the amazing charities Shine and CLIC Sargent, both of which are doing great work to help cancer patients and their families today.
The funds are being raised through:
Let’s shop: Our website hosts an online shop selling ethically sourced, organic cotton, 'Cancer. We’re done.' branded t-shirts and sweatshirts. The companies providing the finished products are authorised by either Fair trade or Fairwear organisations so we’re taking a positive environmental stance at the same time as raising potentially life changing funds. What’s not to like?
Let’s work: A raffle of paid work experience at exciting UK start-ups and growth companies.
Any student who’s ever spent a week getting coffee, photocopying, or doing research that is immediately thrown into the recycling knows that the current UK work experience system doesn’t work.
It shouldn’t just be the people whose Uncle Barry knows someone at Linklaters who get those advantages in job interviews
It’s elitist, nepotistic, and formal work experience programmes tend to only be offered in very 'establishment' industries: law, banking, consulting.
And yet it’s still a vital part of your CV. We sit through weeks making coffee and answering the phone because we know those 80 words are critical to give you something to talk about at an interview, in a world where experience is required to get an entry-level job.
There are lots of reasons why this is a flawed system: it shouldn’t just be the people whose Uncle Barry knows someone at Linklaters who get those advantages in job interviews, and it shouldn’t just be traditional industries where students get experience of the world of work.
Traditional industries no longer run the world; they’re not the only options for students leaving school or university and looking for an exciting career path. We live in the age of the start-up, when two friends in a coffee shop are just as likely to be genuinely in search of caffeine as they are to be working on plans for what could be tomorrow’s unicorn.
There are hundreds of start-ups and growth companies in the UK today, and, in the main, they’re doing things differently. Roles are different. Responsibilities are different. Hierarchies are different. But students don’t tend to get a chance to see this, and, more often than not, leave school or university in search of the nearest grad scheme to begin climbing the slippery corporate ladder, not actually sure that they want whatever it is that’s at the top.
So as part of 'Cancer. We’re done.', 'Let’s work' was created. It’s an initiative to help students who otherwise wouldn’t have such opportunities access paid, useful work experience at start-ups and growth companies.
So far, 28 companies have signed up to give one student a week’s paid work experience through 'Let’s work.' The companies span a wide range of industries: fintech, culture, healthcare and even alcohol-free beer.
Each company has committed to proving an interesting, realistic, and valuable experience of the workplace to the winning student.
Students – or anyone over 18 looking for a career change – can apply by buying a £5 raffle ticket to win a week’s work experience at the company on the list that interests them most. 100 per cent of the proceeds go to charity. The raffle closes on 30 September 2020 and the week’s work experience can take place in Autumn / Winter 2020 at a date agreed between winner and company.
Let’s get together: Pre-COVID 19 we had plans for various other events. A marathon-long walk with friends and family in memory of mum. And a dinner and auction evening. Both of which I’m determined will be re-scheduled once some form of normality ensues.
And that’s an overview of what we’re up to. I know that will more funding and more research, we’ll be able to find a way to a world without cancer. Help us get there by buying a 'Cancer. We’re done.' t-shirt or jumper, or sharing the word about 'Let’s work' with any students you know looking for paid work experience in these difficult times.