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A Christmas message from Blood Cancer UK

22nd Dec 2020 - Gemma Peters

Christmas always seems a natural point to look back and take stock of the year. I won't sugar coat the past 12 months, but we can all be proud of how our community has come together and what we've achieved.

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I'll start by stating the obvious – 2020 has been an awful year for the country, and an even worse one for people affected by blood cancer.

There has been a huge mental health toll on our community, both from the fear of contracting coronavirus and the sense of isolation from trying to avoid it. And there have been too many people with blood cancer who have sadly contracted the virus and become seriously ill or died.

Since March, when the pandemic began to take hold, our charity's main focus has been on doing everything we can to support our community during the most difficult challenge it’s ever faced.

We had to adapt swiftly to keep our community safe

Our support line has seen a surge in demand beyond anything we’d ever planned for, while our health information team has done an incredible job of in keeping our information up to date in an ever-changing situation.

We’ve also been the voice of the blood cancer community to the Government and the NHS. We successfully campaigned for people with blood cancer to be eligible for furlough if they couldn’t work from home, and for people with blood cancer aged under 70 to be a higher priority to get the vaccine.

Winning these arguments has made a massive difference – it has meant people haven’t had to choose between their health and their finances; and that many thousands of people with blood cancer will get a vaccine earlier than they would have done otherwise.

I feel a great sense of pride at how we’ve supported our community and each other.

So when I look back on the last year, along with the sadness of thinking about what we’ve been through I feel a great sense of pride at how we’ve supported our community and each other.

It’s also been a difficult year financially.

Lots of our funds come from the kinds of sports events and community fundraising that haven’t been possible this year, and so we’ve had to make difficult decisions to ensure we’re financially sustainable. One of these has been saying goodbye to valued colleagues, which was especially tough because it meant we were becoming a smaller organisation just at the time when people affected by blood cancer needed us most.

The toughest decision we had to make

But I think the single hardest decision we’ve made this year is to reduce the amount we’ve spent on research. I’m all too aware that if we fund less research, then it could mean that more people die before we reach the day that blood cancer is beaten. This is the last thing I wanted to do, and now I am absolutely determined for us to increase the amount we spend on research as fast as we possibly can.

But as tough as 2020 has been, the thing that gives me hope for the future is the amazing compassion and determination with which our community has rallied around us this year. They have been just brilliant, whether it’s been supporting us financially, giving support to others in the community, or coming up with creative solutions to our problems.

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Take Paul Carless, for example. Paul’s plan to climb Mount Kilimanjaro was delayed by the pandemic, but instead of giving up he decided to climb the height of Kilimanjaro on his stairs instead, raising over £8,000. And I mention Paul not because the spirit he’s shown has been the exception, but because it’s the same spirit we’ve seen from our community in 2020, again, and again, and again.

I'm more confident than ever that we will be the generation to beat blood cancer.

So while 2020 has been a long, hard road, I can’t think a group of people I’d rather have walked it with. And as difficult as the year has been – and the latest news on infection rates means it’s still a desperately difficult time – our community’s response to it makes me more confident than ever that we will be the generation that beats blood cancer.

Thank you to all of you who have been part of an extraordinary collective effort this year. Your contribution means so much, and I hope you get a chance to rest and relax over Christmas, even if the latest restrictions and the rising infection rate means it’s far removed from the Christmas we might have hoped for.

Brighter days are on the horizon

I know that for many of you, the next couple of weeks will be difficult because you’ll be thinking about the loved ones who can’t be with you this year, as well as feeling worried about the infection rate. If this applies to you then our support line is open until Christmas Eve, and then again from the 29th. You can call them on 0808 2080 888, or talk to other people affected by blood cancer on our forum.

I’ll just end this message by saying, on behalf of everyone at Blood Cancer UK, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family. I know the last year has been tough and we are in for some very difficult weeks ahead, but I hope the vaccine rollout that’s now underway gives you hope that brighter days are coming soon.

With warmest wishes,

Gemma Peters
Chief Executive, Blood Cancer UK

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