Monday, 18 December 2017

I am eternally grateful to The Christie charity for helping me to become a person again, rather than a patient - David Shelton

David Shelton at The Christie charity sporting reception

David Shelton, Christie patient and fundraiser 

At 7.13 am on Friday 16th May 2015 I was standing on the side of the swimming pool as I did at the same time most mornings, but something felt different. My muscles feel stiff, just like I’d played a hard game of squash the previous day.  A swim normally sorts out my stiff muscles. I jumped in and wished I hadn’t. I could barely move and only just managed to struggle to the steps and haul myself out. Something was very wrong.

The GP practice was on my way home and I decided to call in and was fortunate to get an emergency appointment. I explained that I was planning to catch the ferry to Ireland the next day for my youngest son, James’ wedding. The GP was puzzled by the symptoms but took some blood tests.

The following Monday I had a call from my GP (you know you’re in trouble when the GP phones you!) to say that the blood tests had revealed that I have a CK level of 27,000. CK or creatine kinase is a product of muscle breakdown which is normally less than 190 units per litre. The GP said that these sort of levels are usually seen in pedestrians who had been involved in serious road accidents or athletes who had run multiple marathons and he asked me to go to A&E immediately.

I was admitted to the local district general hospital where I stayed for three weeks whilst a series of tests and scans were conducted. I was allowed out for James’ wedding subject to strict instructions to stay in a wheelchair and to be back at the ward by 10 pm. 

The scans revealed that I had a group of enlarged lymph nodes below my liver and the muscle breakdown seemed to be the result of a rare autoimmune disease, Dermatomyositis.  

In order to make a diagnosis, the doctors attempted to sample the lymph nodes using a needle biopsy but this was unsuccessful. They concluded that a major and potentially risky operation was required to open the abdomen and access the lymph nodes below the liver.  

Despite having friends and relatives locally I really wanted to be treated at home and had asked for a referral to The Christie. The day before the exploratory surgery was due to be carried-out I heard from Professor Radford at The Christie that he and his lymphoma team were able to accept me as a patient.

The staff at the general hospital had been great but they had never seen this rare combination of symptoms before. It was a huge relief to arrive at The Christie and to be told that they had seen patients like me before, rather than having a series of consultations, where they all said they had never seen my condition before and would I mind if they asked a colleague to have a look.

The Christie was able to sample the lymph nodes using a CT guided probe without major surgery and confirmed that I had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. 

Professor Radford’s diagnosis was that my immune system was attacking the lymphoma and that to my immune system; my muscles looked similar to the lymphoma so it was attacking them as well. If they could cure the lymphoma then the Dermatomyositis would be cured as well. 

Professor Radford was also able to refer me to the specialist rheumatology team at Salford Royal to help to manage the Dermatomyositis

Six rounds of the ‘R-CHOP’ chemotherapy later the scans showed no activity in my lymph nodes and my CK levels were down to nearly normal levels. I had lost three stone in weight, as well as the ability to swallow and the muscular strength in most of my shoulders, upper arms, legs and trunk.

I worked hard to rebuild my lost muscle mass and function. This was a long process punctuated by small victories, like the day I could put my own socks on, or walk to the end of the garden without a stick. At the start of this year I had progressed to a stage where I could do everything I needed to, but not everything I wanted to.

Like many patients, I really wanted to provide some tangible help and support to The Christie. My eldest son Cliff suggested that his brothers and I should cycle the 300 miles from London to Paris in 3.5 days in order to raise money for The Christie. Considering my physical condition at the time, he might as well have suggested that I cycle to the moon! Still, with some trepidation, we put our names down for the September event.

My first step was to buy a suitable bike and I can still remember the look of pity on the salesman’s face when I couldn’t even lift my leg over the crossbar. My first target was to be able to cycle five miles, which I achieved after the first month. As the months passed by I put in over 1,300 miles of training and eventually I could cycle 90 miles in a day. The unknown question on the day of the challenge was could I get up the next day and do the same and then do it again?

At 6 am on Wednesday 13th September, Team Shelton (my sons and I) assembled with another 100 riders for the briefing at Crystal Palace in London. Ahead of us was 90 miles riding through the Kent countryside to reach the assembly point in Dover by 4 pm. Then we had another five miles to reach the overnight accommodation in Calais. The weather was dry but very windy. We arrived before 3 pm to find that the ferry was delayed by bad weather and finally reached our hotel at 11 pm, tired but happy.
David and his sons

The next day we rode from Calais to Abbeville, 76 miles through glorious Normandy countryside. The French roads are fantastic for cycling and I didn’t see my first pothole until we passed the 150 mile mark! We were beginning to relax into the ride by this stage and chatting with the other riders, all of whom had inspirational stories to about why they were putting themselves through the physical challenge.

On the third day, we cycled the 67 miles from Abbeville to Beauvais. Much to the frustration of the rest of Team Shelton I had three punctures in quick succession. Chatting to the team mechanic over lunch he explained that he has used 600 inner tubes in the morning repairing punctures due to small flints being washed onto the roads by heavy rain overnight.

The final day involved a 56-mile ride from Beauvais to Paris. I distinguished myself by gracefully falling off my bike into a flower bed in the Paris suburbs as I forget which foot to unclip at some traffic lights. We assembled at the Bois de Boulogne for the final cycle through Paris; round the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower. 

Alarmingly we were briefed to keep going no matter what and don’t stop for traffic lights, junctions, or even injured team members! Once we got used to riding in a large group, defying all known traffic regulations was surprisingly good fun. We got a great reception from the Paris crowds with a lot of cheering, blaring of car horns (supportive I think?) and only a few shouts of Le Brexitieers!

Arriving at the Eiffel Tower was quite emotional for me. My wife, daughter-in-law and 8-month-old grandson are there to welcome Team Shelton to Paris. We were treated to a celebration dinner and then got the Eurostar back to London the following day.

I am eternally grateful to The Christie. The expertise, care and kindness provided by Professor Radford and his team saved my life. 

I also have reason to be grateful to The Christie charity. Team Shelton set out to raise money for The Christie in appreciation of what it had done for me. But curiously taking on the London to Paris challenge helped immeasurably with my recuperation. For me, and I suspect other cancer patients, recuperation has a psychological as well as a physical component. Becoming a person again, rather than a patient, and regaining confidence in my own body were big issues. The London to Paris challenge helped tremendously in putting me on the road to full recovery.

Having completed the challenge, I was pleasantly surprised to be asked to speak at The Christie charity sporting reception on 7th December 2017. More than 125 guests attended, all of whom had helped the charity raise over £2m this year from sporting challenges. A further 125 had attended a similar reception a week earlier.  I found the event very moving and was amazed at the range of activities undertaken to raise money for The Christie. Running, cycling, walking and parachuting were all well represented along with some more esoteric challenges such as fire walking!

Interesting presentations were given by the
chief executive of The Christie on the inspirational work of the hospital, by the charity on the important contribution it makes to support the hospital, and by former patients on how they had capitalised on the second chance for life that The Christie had given them. All those who had participated in sporting challenges were presented with “I did it for The Christie” pins and I will now wear mine with pride.

We are really fortunate to have this world-class cancer hospital in the North West and we should all do our very best to support The Christie.

To find out more about how to support The Christie charity please visit

Monday, 4 December 2017

To know that my blood donation could help someone during their cancer treatment made me feel really happy - Louise Fennell

Louise Fennell, NHS blood donor

Louise Fennell
I'd wanted to be a blood donor for many years. I first tried to give blood when I was at university, though I wasn't able to donate due to my iron levels at the time (and possibly, like many students, a diet of slightly more alcohol than asparagus contributed towards that!).

Then, after uni, I was focused on setting up two businesses - one teaching cheerleading, the other teaching Pilates - and soon I was busy running classes all over Stockport, with very little free time left.

I was aware that blood donation sessions were held in various venues in Stockport, though the days and times didn't suit my schedules.   

Just before Christmas in 2015 I gave my first donation at Plymouth Grove donor centre in Manchester. I wasn't nervous about donating, but if you are, then it's a great place to go - the staff are all really friendly. Everyone was in Christmas jumpers at the time actually and it didn't feel at all clinical.

Everything went really smoothly with the donation - my boyfriend and I had a race to see who could donate the quickest actually (I won!) - and I remember the nice, warm feeling of walking out of the centre around 45 minutes later, knowing that my donation could help to save lives. Oh, and as a chocoholic, it was a bonus getting some free chocolate before leaving too! 

I was also excited to find out my blood group around a week later when a key ring arrived in the post. I'm O positive, which means my donations can go to anyone with a positive blood group. 

There's a system now too where you get a text message informing you which hospital your donation has been issued to. Not long after donating I heard that mine had been sent to The Christie. I was so pleased!

I've known many people that have been treated at The Christie and everyone has always spoken highly about the quality of care at the hospital. Everyone knows somebody that has been affected by cancer and we're very lucky to have a world-leading hospital in Manchester, with so many experts making a difference on a daily basis. 

To know that my blood donation could help someone during their cancer treatment made me feel really happy. I hope it made a difference to their quality of life at that stage of their illness, even if it just helped them walk down the corridor that day, instead of stay in bed.

Since my first donation, my mum has also needed to receive blood during a short hospital stay, which has strengthened my determination to keep donating. Someone, somewhere spent 45 minutes of their time to give those donations and it makes me feel proud that I'm now a regular at the donor centre. And I'm yet to be beaten by my boyfriend in the donation races either!

To find out more about giving blood and to find a donation centre near your home or work please visit

Monday, 27 November 2017

I confronted my fear of heights and did a Skydive because The Christie is second to none for cancer care and treatment - Phil Shaw

Phil Shaw, Divisional Director for Interserve Construction delivering The Christie’s proton beam therapy centre

Phil Shaw
Interserve is working with The Christie to bring the UK's first high energy proton beam therapy service to Manchester. The state of the art five-storey building will provide three treatment gantries, a research room, a patient reception, consultation rooms and public space.

As Divisional Director I have ultimate responsibility for the delivery of this pioneering project, which is nearing completion and is being fitted out with its equipment. This project has been an inspirational one to work on, and working at The Christie is very rewarding. I’m so proud to lead the team delivering this project that will make such a huge difference to patients quality of life.

Working with The Christie has had a profound impact on me. Key to this is the fact that I have been touched by The Christie and the fantastic care they provide for cancer patients. A close friend, a family member and a colleague have all been treated at The Christie so I know that the work they do is second to none! Being onsite I see the amazing care and treatment provided by the dedicated staff and I feel compelled to fundraise to help create awareness and contribute to enabling this world class treatment to continue.

So each year I set myself a new challenge. This year I decided to confront my fear of heights by doing a Skydive for The Christie. If anyone is considering taking part in The Christie’s Skydive, I would whole-heartedly recommend it.

The adrenalin rush is amazing, with a feeling of freedom and an incredible sense of accomplishment, pretty much nothing on earth can beat it!

Although nothing seems more unnatural than jumping out of an aeroplane, and despite it scaring the living daylights out of me, I’ve never felt more empowered.

Once my parachute opened and my heart rate steadied, I took a moment to gaze around and saw the world in a new light. It’s beautiful up there, and the experience is about as close to flying as humans can actually get.

There is another bonus too….you’re strapped to an experienced instructor and dive together. Not only does this mean you don’t have to worry about making any mistakes, it also means he or she will be doing all the hard work!

At Interserve, we are passionate about improving the lives of people in the communities where we live and work, and involvement in charity work is a vital part of our corporate aims. The Christie’s proximity to our regional office allows us to see first-hand the great work that the charity does in the North West and the fantastic care and treatment the hospital proves to cancer patients.

To find out more about doing a Skydive for The Christie in 2018 please visit

Monday, 13 November 2017

Put the fun into fundraising: We’re proud to support the ‘We did it for The Christie’ (#wediditforthechristie) campaign - Neil Tinsley

Neil Tinsley, Treasurer of the Nantwich Christie Hospital Support Group

Neil Tinsley
Almost two decades ago my life changed forever; my next door neighbour Liz stuck her head over the garden fence and asked if I’d be interested in joining a charity fundraising group that she was part of.

She said their treasurer had moved on and they were looking for a new one and she knew that I was working in an accounts department of a large computer company. I agreed to go along to the group’s next meeting and the rest is history as they say!

That group was the Nantwich Christie Hospital Support Group. At the time, the group was organising its third black-tie ball at the Nantwich Civil Hall; I couldn’t recall ever going to such an event before and I certainly hadn’t been involved in helping to organise one, but I said I’d be happy to do whatever they wanted me to do.

In the run up to the ball we were selling tickets for a grand draw which would be drawn on the night, this involved standing in the centre of Crewe and Nantwich trying to catch peoples’ eyes and persuade them to part with their hard-earned money, not an easy task!  

It was during this activity that I first started to realise how important The Christie, or Christie’s hospital as it was then known, was to people. Strangers were coming up and pouring their hearts out about how they or someone they knew was being treated at the hospital and how if it wasn’t for the fantastic doctors and nurses they probably would not be around.

It was all tear-jerking stuff and I began to realise that what the Nantwich group was doing was really making a difference. The grand draw and the summer ball were a great success and we were invited along to meet the research team to hand over the £16,000 that we’d raised. This had taken the group’s overall total to a fantastic £38,000 and Sarah, the group’s Chair, and the other committee members had said that this was way over what they had originally set out to make and that it was time to stop.

We arrived at The Christie and were given a tour round the research facilities, introduced to a number of researchers who thanked us for all our efforts and explained to us that if it wasn’t for people like us then the massive progress that had been achieved in treating cancer patients might stop! We handed over our donation, had the photoshoot with the large cheque and left … as we walked out of the door we all looked at each other and we knew we couldn’t stop fundraising, however, we all agreed ‘No more balls!’

So, at our next meeting we agreed that we had to carry on with our fundraising but rather than organising large, one-off events we would focus on smaller more regular events and that’s what we’ve been doing ever since … plus we have broken our own ‘no more balls’ rule on a number of occasions as we have reached significant milestones in our fundraising journey. In fact, we are currently in the process of organising next year’s ‘silver anniversary ball’ to celebrate 25 years of fundraising for The Christie. Find out more at and email to reserve your ticket.

A couple of years ago I was asked to speak at a fundraisers’ forum at The Christie and my message to the people gathered in the auditorium was to make sure you have fun – ‘put the fun into fundraising’ – and that way it doesn’t seem like hard work. It is certainly something our Nantwich group does.
Neil with the Nantwich Christie Hospital Support Group

We are a very relaxed group of friends who just so happen to raise money for a fantastic cause along the way.

Earlier this year our group had the great honour of being asked to help launch the ‘We did it for The Christie’ (#wediditforthechristie) campaign. This important new campaign aims to bring in new supporters for The Christie and encourage supporters to fundraise for the vital work done by The Christie.

Twenty years ago, I would never have imagined that people would be coming up to me in the street and saying ‘Oh, you’re the bingo caller from that do we went to last week’ or ‘could you please make the questions at next year’s quiz a bit easier so we don’t win the wooden spoon again!’

Joining the Nantwich Christie Hospital Support Group really did change my life. Since joining I now have an amazing circle of friends, a fantastic social life and most of all I know that I’m helping, in a very small way, to improve the lives of others. I have a lot to thank my neighbour Liz for!

You can follow the Nantwich Christie Hospital Support Group on Facebook at or Twitter at

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

It was special to be involved in a key moment in the development of The Christie’s revolutionary MR linac - Mike Thorpe

Mike Thorpe, Christie patient

Mike Thorpe
I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February 2014 at North Manchester General Hospital and my treatment was a two year course of hormone therapy and radiotherapy at The Christie. 

The radiotherapy was every weekday for four weeks during July. I was invited to take part in a radiotherapy clinical trial so my treatment took place in the research facility known as R1, the radiographers looking after me for those four weeks were Julie, Laura, Michelle and Sheena.

Being diagnosed with cancer had knocked me sideways and that month of radiotherapy was the most intense month of my life. I was scared and radiotherapy was a high-tech world that I didn't recognise and didn't realise existed. 

I had 20 days of treatment and I was very focused so I didn't have many casual chats with my team but every one of them has a special place in my heart and I can never thank them enough.

I’ve heard people talk about finishing treatment and saying it's like falling off a cliff, it is! 

After radiotherapy every weekday for four weeks, I felt like I was suddenly on my own (despite still needing hormone implants to be fitted every three months) with time to think about the past six months and I also wanted something to fill the void.

During the radiotherapy, I'd picked up a flyer for a support group so I made a call and joined. It was the Effects of Pelvic Radiation Support Group and I still attend now. After attending a couple of meetings, one of the organisers, Sue Taylor suggested I think about joining The Christie's Patient and Carers Reference Group (PRG) so I did. That was the first step on a long road of user involvement and I'm still a member of the PRG.

Sue also suggested that I look at the Macmillan cancer voices website for other opportunities. Not long after that, I was encouraged to attend a Macmillan workshop in London, soon to be followed by another one in Birmingham and then Newcastle for the Independent Cancer Taskforce. 

Along the way, I joined the Macmillan Cancer Improvement Partnership which has been working in the city of Manchester and later became involved with Greater Manchester Cancer which drives cancer provision across the region. 

Being involved with Greater Manchester Cancer led to me working with the Cancer Vanguard which aims to develop a new model of cancer care and treatment throughout the country.

I’m also involved in the Virtual MDT (Multidisciplinary Team) and one of the original members of CRUK's Patient Sounding Board. There are numerous other projects I've been involved with as well.

At the end of July 2017, I was discharged from The Christie by Clinical Nurse Specialist Helen Johnson. Helen is involved in some of the projects I've been participating in.

It was through Helen that I was invited to be involved in marking a key moment in the development of a new era in radiotherapy research. The Christie was looking for a radiotherapy patient to pick a rose from The Christie garden to be used as the first item to be scanned by the hospital’s new MR-linac, a revolutionary multi million pound radiotherapy machine with its own MR scanner, one of only seven in the world. 

Sheena and Mike at the MR-linac
Now as it turns out, the MR-linac has been installed in the R1 radiotherapy suite where I was treated which made it even more special for me. 

One thing about radiotherapy is you rarely go back for more, so patients rarely get to meet the teams who treated them again. The Christie made it really special for me by inviting one of the team of radiotherapists who had treated me originally, Sheena, to be there when I picked the rose and placed it in the MR-linac for scanning. It was a real privilege.

I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to be involved in so much user involvement. And I will always have an enduring affection for The Christie and its staff.

Monday, 16 October 2017

The study day empowered me to deliver better professional development to colleagues to improve patient outcomes - Laura McNab

Laura McNab, clinical practice facilitator for haematology

Laura McNab
The Palatine Ward is part of the Palatine Treatment Centre. We provide comprehensive diagnosis and treatment for cancers of the blood and lymphatic system which involves haematology and oncology newly diagnosed and transplant patients.

The expert team I’m part of utilises the most advanced methods to treat patients with haematological or malignant diseases. The unit is dedicated to the delivery of advanced research combined with the highest quality care. The work we do can be life-changing and life-saving for patients at The Christie.

As a clinical practice facilitator in the unit it’s my role to support the continued professional development of nurses and healthcare assistants, induction of new starters and daily clinical practice of all core staff. I help to deliver change, empower my colleagues, ensure that we are at the leading edge of best practice, champion clinical skills and prioritise education in the clinical area. This is with the aim of helping to maintain the highest quality patient care and patient outcomes, governed by national and local policies, and to provide a robust haematology and transplant training plan.

I’ve done this educational role since June 2016, but have been a specialist nurse since 2014 and have worked specifically in haematology for seven years at The Christie.

Having first qualified as a nurse 10 years ago it was a big decision to decide to commit to undertaking a master’s module in the Principles of Haematology through The University of Manchester.

The programme consisted of an assignment and attendance at seven full study days, one of those being an external conference hosted at The Christie – and open nationally to all multidisciplinary members.

Whilst I wanted to consolidate my knowledge formally, I had been a little hesitant to partake in formal study again before finally signing up to the master’s module. The thought of having to do an assignment worthy of higher educational standards was daunting enough but I kept asking myself if I will actually learn much during the period of the course.

I had been lucky enough to attend several haematology study days during my career in-house and nationally, and even more fortunate to experience some international conferences too. I asked myself how just another seven day’s study could build on what I already knew. But my inner academic ego kept niggling at me and convinced me to give it a go. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that the programme has made a big difference to the work I do and have never looked back since!

The programme provided exposure to specialist and cutting edge knowledge and I firmly believe I am now a more confident and informed specialist nurse, being able to share this knowledge and advise colleagues, help problem solve and aspire to provide the best possible standards of care for patients suffering from haematological conditions.

My cohort on the master’s module consisted of a multidisciplinary group and it was a great atmosphere to facilitate shared learning and interesting group discussions - finally getting the chance to ask all those questions I wished I had previously asked and not dared too since!

The most useful part of the module was the national haematology study day, hosted by The Christie. This brought together leading consultants, specialist nurses and allied health professionals from The Christie to share their world class knowledge with a wider audience. The study day also included some big name speakers from across the country to share their remarkable work.

The study day provided a comfortable and relaxed environment within the newly renovated education centre at The Christie’s School of Oncology, with plenty of opportunities to network with contemporaries, speakers, charities and sponsors.

By taking part in this master’s module and the study day, I felt empowered with new knowledge to be able to make a difference with what I had learnt and to further support the education and training of colleagues in the Haematology and Transplant Unit at The Christie.

Before doing the module I had a good level of haematology knowledge, but having completed it I have been inspired to keep on learning. Despite the everyday demands and clinical duties of my role I feel it is important to be continuously learning so as to be able to support the best possible outcomes for our patients.

Study days are the perfect way to keep up to date and I will certainly be booking onto more study days at The Christie again, including the for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia and Teenage & Young Adults study day on 20th November 2017 at The Christie School of Oncology.

Speaking at the Haematology study day

Principles of Haematology Oncology is a 15 credit module that can be taken independently or as part of a Specialist Practice in Cancer MSc delivered by The Christie School of Oncology in collaboration with The University of Manchester.

If you would like more details of courses available at The Christie School of Oncology, please visit

Monday, 2 October 2017

Like our NHS partners, high quality patient care is at the heart of everything we do - Annette Weatherley

Annette Weatherley, chief nursing officer, The Christie Clinic

Annette Weatherley
As the new chief nursing officer of The Christie Private Care, part of HCA Healthcare UK, patients are at the heart of everything I do, and my role is to ensure that outstanding care is delivered in a safe environment whilst also facilitating continuous improvement.  

As the new chief nursing officer of The Christie Private Care, part of HCA Healthcare UK, patients are at the heart of everything I do, and my role is to ensure that outstanding care is delivered in a safe environment whilst also facilitating continuous improvement. 

I’m passionate about nursing and the delivery of the best patient experience and outcomes. I believe that excellence in care is achieved through the creation of an open and honest, supportive culture in which we constantly reflect and learn from patients, situations and each other.

I’m responsible for ensuring the provision of robust clinical and managerial leadership to a team of nurses that will enable them to deliver high standards of professionalism at all times. On a regular basis, I’ll be interacting with the senior management and nursing team from The Christie to share our plans and ideas relating to future service development and ways we can continue to support each other going forward.

Prior to my current position, I’ve worked for a variety of NHS Trusts across the region, most recently at University Hospital South Manchester as deputy chief nurse, and also spent time at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust early on in my career as a newly qualified staff nurse and then as a clinical nurse specialist in gynae oncology, so I’ve first-hand experience of the fantastic work that goes on here at the Trust. 

At The Christie Private Care, we’re really proud of the joint venture and ongoing collaboration between HCA Healthcare UK and The Christie NHS Foundation Trust which commenced in June 2010.  We were chosen, by the Trust, as its private partner, bringing together our shared expertise in cancer care to provide a private cancer service and greater patient choice. We also have vast experience working with the NHS and are the largest provider of private cancer care in Britain.

I’m asked on a frequent basis what the acronym HCA stands for. We are part of The Hospital Corporation of America which is the largest independent healthcare provider in the world with more than 160 operational sites in the U.S., six London-based hospitals, more than 20 satellite clinics and currently six joint venture facilities. HCA Healthcare UK also operates a private clinical trials unit called Sarah Cannon Research Institute UK. 

Our joint venture sites in the UK are managed under a separate division called HCA Healthcare UK Joint Ventures. There are currently three of these in the North West; The Christie Private Care, The Manchester Institute of Health & Performance and HCA Healthcare UK at The Wilmslow Hospital.

At The Christie Private Care, we are fully integrated into the campus at The Christie and have a number of units across the site. We have dedicated outpatient facilities, a chemotherapy day care unit with 15 chemotherapy chairs and dedicated inpatient facilities based in the Oak Road Treatment Centre. This includes 28 in-patient rooms and six dedicated haematology rooms that are suitable for patients with acute haematological cancers or who require bone marrow transplantation. There is also a dedicated linear accelerator within the radiotherapy department that allows us to provide the full patient pathway.

Like our NHS partners, high quality patient care is at the heart of everything we do. We strive to provide every patient with individualised and supportive care, by providing access to innovative cancer treatments under the care of leading expert consultants, the vast majority of who practice at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust. Our partnership with the Trust allows us to offer a unique environment for private patients where our sole focus is cancer care. 

Our unique partnership also provides significant additional financial resources for the Trust. Around £25million income has been generated over the last six years, which allows The Christie to reinvest and develop services, ultimately benefiting NHS patients.

Because our patients have access to alternative funding streams, such as medical insurance or can self-pay, The Christie Private Care, also helps to relieve patient demand pressures placed upon the NHS within a climate of increasing demand, an ageing population, and limited funding. Many of our consultants, nurses, staff and patients have supported The Christie charity over the years with numerous fundraising activities. We were also the main sponsors of last year’s annual charity ball which raised more than £100,000.

Our radiotherapy department also provides experiential learning to graduates who wish to pursue an NHS career and are currently searching for employment. We allow them to register for temporary employment as a bank staff member which enables them to build up their clinical and technical knowledge. In fact, our radiotherapy team was recently recognised at the prestigious Laing and Buisson Independent Healthcare Sector Awards for personalisation of the patient journey. 

My aim for The Christie Private Care is to ensure that our unique partnership with The Christie NHS Foundation Trust continues to go from strength to strength, further enhancing patient care and experience across the board. We will be working hard to introduce new services and strive to achieve excellence in all we do, and as a nurse leader, my aspiration is to model the way and positively influence the nursing culture and practice at The Christie Private Care.

Friday, 22 September 2017

It felt great to be able to share my story on national radio and discuss body image issues and cancer - Lydia Greenwood

Lydia Greenwood

Lydia Greenwood
Body image and cancer are difficult things to talk about at the best of times. In a way, talking about them can make you feel vulnerable and you could even say there is a stigma, especially with body image. Although that is not necessarily what I believe.

So you might be reading this wondering why I agreed to go on national radio with BBC Radio 5 live earlier this summer to talk about my experiences, along with two other young women and a member of staff from The Christie.

I think I did it because since being treated for cancer at The Christie I feel like a different person now, in a good way. I feel stronger, more willing to do adventurous things and I’m more confident in my own body.

There are so many people who helped me on this journey both within The Christie and amongst my friends and family to feel confident in my body, its strength to fight this disease and my changing appearance. From the many doctors and nurses to the body image group run by Anna at The Christie as well as those who helped me with confidence and strategies to cope with the relentless cannulas.

In fact, I was astonished when a magician magically showed up just after an awful experience with a cannula to cheer me up! And one close friend even cut her hair short in solidarity with me as I lost mine. Others supported me through messages of encouragement on Facebook, long phone calls and even hundreds of people praying for me from different church circles that my parents knew. It all gave me the strength to fight my battle.

It was a weird experience to be back in hospital in the Palatine ward, as it felt like my time there had been a lifetime ago.

When I was speaking on the radio, at first, I was a bit nervous. But then it felt great to be able to share my story with potentially millions of people and possibly help others with issues they have about their body image. And it was great to listen to the two other young women taking part, Chelsea and Seren. We were all at different stages of our treatment, and able to give encouragement to each other, and also share some advice we’d learnt along the way!

If you’d like to know more about my story please read on.

I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in October 2015. I was 16, had finished high school, and was ready to have a fresh start at a new college.

Before my diagnosis, I was a pretty average teenager with the kind of body image issues that I think a lot of teenagers have.

I was self-conscious about my size and didn’t feel confident to walk around in tight clothing, usually sticking to baggy clothes. I would see girls who were ‘thin’ and wished I could be like them. However, these feelings did improve after I started feeling more comfortable in college.

I’d only managed about a month of college when I started getting weird symptoms, such as extreme fatigue and being breathless when doing hardly anything. I began thinking this wasn’t normal for a teenage girl. I’d also started getting tinnitus (ringing in the ears), half-hour-long nosebleeds and my appetite was depleting.
At one point I wondered if I had cancer. Then told myself not to be stupid because people my age don’t get cancer! When I look back on it now, I think I was only trying to convince myself of that.

I hardly knew anyone, young or old, who’d had cancer. I’d heard of Talia Castellano, a brave young blogger who had fought cancer for six years, but I’d never made the connection that it could happen to me.

Finally, on 23rd October, my mum took me to A&E. We were supposed to visit my family that day, but I was too tired to get up and it took all the energy I had. My skin was also paler than usual. A few days before, my grandma had noticed how tired I looked and suggested it could be anaemia as it runs in the family. We went to the hospital expecting to get iron tablets but left with a cancer diagnosis.

Within 24 hours of my diagnosis, after getting transferred to Oldham hospital for the night, I was transferred to The Christie’s Teenage and Young Adult Unit. It may sound strange, but I was actually glad to be there. It wasn’t like the average hospital. The unit always had stuff going on, from crafts one day to a movie and pizza night the next. For me, it was a break from all the painful experiences with cannulas and the chemo brain.

One thing that stood out to me in the more than seven weeks I spent in hospital was the body image group facilitated by one of the members of staff, Anna. She had invited a small group of young women to come and share our experiences. We sat and talked a lot about cancer diagnosis, how it’s affected everyone and how our body image had been affected. As I looked around the room, I saw hope. There were women who had either completely finished chemotherapy or were outpatients, and that helped give me the strength and perseverance to know that if they can do it, so can I.

In hospital, I didn’t really pay much attention to my body’s state; I was too busy dealing with the intense chemotherapy to notice that I had started to lose a lot of weight due to the effects of treatment and being unable to eat enough. By the end of my time in hospital, I was around 52kg (about eight stone) and could barely walk because of how weak I was.

I found this quite upsetting and unsettling at the time. About three months before, I had wanted to lose weight. But now that I had, I realised it wasn’t all that it seemed and the truth was I looked extremely frail and not how I imagined looking. Ever since then, I’ve promised myself that I would never get to that state again. There’s nothing wrong with having fat and our bodies fight to keep us alive every day so our bodies are ideal just the way they are and not how the media tells us they should be.

In reality, some of the hardest things to do with body image during my treatment haven’t been visible to those around me, and that was the extreme fatigue and chemo brain that I’ve felt throughout treatment. What people see and what you experience are two completely different things. Only you as a person knows how you are feeling and it can be hard for people to empathise with patients who are having treatment.

A patient’s image of what they would like their body to be able to do is often different from the reality. Understanding this can be a great support to someone on this cancer journey.

I want to thank BBC Radio 5 live and The Christie for giving me the opportunity to share this story and to discuss a really important issue facing young women and men who get cancer. I want to thank the many people that have helped and supported me. Lastly, I want to thank anyone who has read this blog!

You can listen to Lydia, Chelsea, Seren and Anna discussing cancer and body image at

Thursday, 7 September 2017

I never anticipated how much my life would change once I become a volunteer, and now I am so proud to call myself a Cancer Champion - Zoe Ashworth

Zoe Ashworth, Cancer Champion

Zoe Ashworth (second left) at the launch of the Cancer Champions project
Around five years ago I made a big decision, one which would ultimately set me on a completely different path.

I decided I was no longer happy working in the financial industry that I had worked in for several years, and that I would find something that gave me meaning, that I enjoyed doing, something that I ‘got something out of’.

I didn’t know where to begin. I knew that I wanted to work with and help people; I just wasn’t sure where, what I wanted to do or how to start. I started to think about my options. 

Shortly after, I applied to become a volunteer at my local hospital, Stepping Hill in Stockport. I had my interview and luckily landed a volunteer role which I was very pleased with. 

I enjoyed volunteering so much that I applied to a nearby college for an access to higher education course and also to re-do some of my GCSE’s. I knew this wouldn’t be easy especially as I had a one-year-old daughter. In becoming a volunteer, it made me realise that helping people was where I wanted to be. After a difficult childhood, I had finally found something that made me feel elated!

Despite my initial doubts, after much perseverance, I achieved excellent grades in my access course and managed to re-do the three GCSEs I needed to get into university, all whilst volunteering for around three hours each week.

You’re probably wondering how this links to The Christie and how I become a Cancer Champion.

Well, I knew that my late nanna attended The Christie when I was as a child, but it was only when I reached my mid-twenties that I found out she had received treatment at The Christie for breast cancer, not just once, but twice. 

My nanna always spoke so highly of The Christie even when I was young. I just didn’t know how special The Christie was until I became an adult and realised how privileged we are to have such an amazing, world class hospital within Greater Manchester. This being confirmed more recently after my grandma was diagnosed with lymphoma and started receiving treatment at The Christie last year. 

You see, going back many years ago, I had always wanted to know more about cancer, why people get it, how can we prevent it and so on. Sadly, cancer will more than likely affect us all, in one way or another, if it hasn’t already.

As I achieved all the grades I needed to get into my chosen university, I became a student nurse. As a student nurse, you get various placements within different trusts. It was on one of my study days during my first year as a student nurse that I attended a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) meeting with Stockport’s cancer board. 

An MDT meeting is where various professionals come together to make decisions about particular issues. It was during this MDT meeting that I met the regional manager (North West) for Beating Bowel Cancer as well as staff from Public Health Stockport MBC, Macmillan and Cancer Research UK. They were discussing a new bowel screening project (bowel cancer is currently the 2nd biggest cancer killer). 

Despite being a nervous first-year student nurse (with no knowledge of bowel cancer or bowel screening) I mentioned my previous volunteer experience and suggested it would be a great idea to consider volunteers from various areas, including existing hospital volunteers and even students from universities/colleges to help raise awareness. There are many people who are willing to give their time for fantastic causes such as this, they just need to be made aware.

The team welcomed my suggestion and before I knew it, despite having a young child and managing a university degree I was receiving the training I needed to become a Beating Bowel Cancer screening volunteer. The training was very informal and I didn’t need to have any previous knowledge of bowel cancer/bowel screening. I was provided with all the information I could possibly need. They were all so kind and friendly, and we all shared the same interest in helping people.

I was keen to get on board with the project as I believed that this volunteer role had the potential to make such a massive difference to peoples lives, catching cancer early is vital if we are to improve outcomes for people and their families.

In my role as a Beating Bowel Cancer volunteer/cancer champion, I visit a local GP practice where I am given a list of all non-responders (people who don’t send back their bowel screening kits after they have received them in the post). Currently, everybody aged 60-74 should receive a bowel screening kit every 2 years. I work through the list contacting patients by telephone in relation to bowel screening. I record the outcome of each conversation, taking note of who has agreed to have a new kit sent out. I work with the GP practices’ practice cancer champion, and at the end of my conversations I provide them with a list highlighting which patients have agreed to have a new screening kit sent out, the practice cancer champion will then order the new kits.

Crucially, the earlier bowel cancer is detected the better the survival rate.  Earlier diagnosis also increases the odds of treatment success, resulting in fewer complications and improved quality of life for patients.

Volunteering with Beating Bowel Cancer has provided me with the skills and knowledge that I need to inform people about the importance of screening. I am passionate about health and knowing that I am making a difference, however small, makes me feel proud. Even if I help just one person, that means that I have done my job!

Being a Cancer Champion is very rewarding. I believe more people should be aware of local volunteering opportunities available to them. I think it’s important that people understand there is some flexibility, most people are very time poor so it is important that people are aware of the different ways in which they can help. Once people understand how meaningful volunteering can be, I am sure that many more people will be keen to get involved.

My young daughter and I hosted a bake sale and raffle on World Cancer Day (February 4th) to raise awareness and get people thinking about bowel screening. Anything I can do to make people think about screening is good enough for me, plus it was great being able to get my daughter involved too, she really enjoyed it and we made around £500 over the weekend, so it was a win-win situation.

I have learnt a lot about myself these last few years, and whilst it hasn’t been easy, I am so pleased that I have made the decisions that I have. Everything I have done, both big and small, has led me on to something else. I am enjoying the journey and through volunteering I have gained skills that I couldn’t have gained any other way. I volunteer as a Cancer Champion as often as I can, and have now gained a particular interest in public health. I started by volunteering on a hospital ward, and in doing that have changed my life. I am grateful for every experience in my life, both good and bad, because they have led me to where I am today, and I am privileged to be in a position where I can make a difference to people’s lives. It makes me feel good and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

It is vital that where possible we prevent cancer, but what is equally as important is screening and awareness initiatives. I feel it is my role to inform and empower people about screening. In my role as a friend, mother, relative, student nurse or volunteer, I will always try and do my bit so that the people around me are empowered to make the right decisions for them, so that they can all have long, happy and healthy lives. The more Cancer Champions that we have on board the more likely we are to beat cancer sooner.

If I can be a Cancer Champion, anyone can…..

For more details about how to become a cancer champion go to