Originally published in August 2003 icon
Liverpool may be the lung cancer capital of the UK, but it's also home to the charity dedicated to overcoming it on all fronts. The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation started out in 1990 as the Lung Cancer Fund -the brainchild of Professor Ray Donnelly, a thoracic surgeon and leading authority on the disease. Just two years later the popular entertainer Roy Castle (a lifelong non-smoker) was diagnosed with lung cancer. Upbeat and positive in his approach to the situation, Roy developed much of his last year to promoting this new charity which then adopted his name.
Other, happily healthy, celebrities have since picked up the baton: in 1998 Sir Cliff Richard opened the Roy Castle International Centre for Lung Research and is Life President of the charity. Dame Judi Dench, whose actor husband Michael Williams fell victim to lung cancer, became a Patron, hoping to "help play a part in finding a cure for this devastating disease." Conductor Sir Simon Rattle, himself a Liverpudlian by birth, said that he "would like to give personal support to the very important work" and singer Melanie Chisholm came on board eager to support the Foundation's lively initiatives to stop kids smoking: "I think it's important' she said "to teach youngsters the perils of smoking."
The Liverpool headquarters crackles with purposeful energy. From here, Christine Owens heads up the Tobacco Control department, which delivers stop-smoking support for three primary care trusts across Merseyside and recently launched a teaching pack for primary school children - the country's only complete programme of smoking education for this age group. For teenagers and twentysomethings Roy Castle Fag Ends (the Smoking Cessation team) offers individual support to stop smoking using, among other aids, smoking diaries to help monitor cigarette intake.
Here too at headquarters, the Foundation's own tabloid, Trumpet, is produced and sent out to some 40,000 readers. Twenty a day puffer, Jan Taylor, is one success story: Fourteen months after her first Roy Castle Fag Ends support group meeting, this mother of three was newly fit enough to run The London Marathon, a physical effort that she couldn't have contemplated since she first lit up at 13.
North of the Border in Glasgow, Dr Jesme Bird directs the Roy Castle Patient Care Office which has its own information data base and national Helpline "We've been working with patients for five years now" she explains "and in that time we've built up 23 support groups round the country. Patients tell us that the groups are important because they provide a forum for the mutual support that you can only get from someone who knows what you are going through. There are a lot of negatives surrounding lung cancer so those who can talk about being given four months to live, but still being here six years later also convey a very important message." The Foundation is supported by a plethora of businesses, great and small from GlaxoSmithKline to Merseyside shops and schools.
Income from legacies and trusts is important and individual volunteers are vital to the success of an events programme that includes sponsored runs, a tartan ball, a Cliff Richard concert, flag days. A sponsored foot-stamping is aiming to break its existing world record of 20,267 people pounding the floor simultaneously for a full minute in a sympolic effort to Stamp Out Smoking, all true to The Foundation's slogan: "working together to save lives".
http://www.roycastle.org and for more information about Kids Against Tobacco Smoke.
Patient Helpline: 0800 358 7200