Monday, 15 January 2018

The Beat it Project will 50 involve taking photographs of 50 famous drummers to raise £50k for clinical research at The Christie - Dionne Cyprus

Dionne Cyprus, clinical photographer at The Christie

Dionne Cyprus
I have worked as a clinical photographer in the medical illustration department at The Christie since 2005.

I first became aware of The Christie and its excellent reputation during visits with my husband Chris, after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2001. He was treated with radiotherapy and surgery and we felt very lucky at that point to have The Christie nearby.

Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with a second more aggressive tumour two years later, completely unrelated to the first. Back to The Christie he came for more surgery and radiotherapy. We were so impressed by all the staff, particularly the radiotherapy team, who put him at ease and made the time spent there easier to cope with. The after effects of Chris’s treatment were difficult for him to deal with. We were also told we would have only a 20% chance of having children using IVF treatment, which came as a shock to both of us at such a young age.

After Chris had recovered from this second diagnosis, I saw a job advertised at The Christie, for a clinical photographer and I knew I had to go for it. I was offered the job and felt really proud to become a part of the medical illustration team.

In late 2008, after a great deal of thought, we decided to go ahead with IVF. Fortunately for us, the treatment worked and we had our son, Drew in 2009.

After having Drew and realising how lucky we were to have this amazing hospital on our doorstep, I decided I wanted to start my own fundraising project to help generate money for men’s cancer research and help support people in a similar situation to Chris. I started coming up with ideas for projects which would combine my two passions, drumming and photography, and the beat it project was born!

I made a decision to set the bar high at a 50K target, and the idea gradually evolved that I would be taking portraits of 50 drummers and then holding an auction event at an iconic Manchester venue further down the line.

Dionne with Professor Noel Clarke and Mel Stewart (sponsor)
In collaboration with Noel Clarke, Professor of urological oncology at The Christie, I decided to donate the money raised towards funding a live tissue bio-bank, allowing research to be carried out into the specific causes of men’s cancers at the hospital.

The most difficult aspect of the project has been managing the logistics of travelling and organising photo sessions, which can be tricky with high profile drummers who work to an extremely tight schedule.  I have been very lucky with most of the people I have contacted so far, who have all been really generous with their time. I have also met some amazing people through the project and managed to get sponsors on board including the British Drum Company in Stockport, a team of craftsmen who build bespoke kits.  

The project has ultimately shown me how kind people are, with amazing donations and help coming from people when you least expect it.

So far I have photographed Nick Mason (Pink Floyd), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili peppers), Brad Wilk (Rage Against the Machine), Ben Thatcher (Royal Blood), along with local drummers Joe Donovan (Blossoms) and Paul Kehoe (Peter Hook and the light); and I hope to secure many more in the coming months … including my personal favourite Dave Grohl of legendary Nirvana/Foo Fighters fame!

Check out the website  to keep up to date with the latest news and to donate.

If you are a Manchester based company and would like to contribute to the beat it fund by becoming an official sponsor for the project, please contact Dionne through the beat it website.

Monday, 8 January 2018

I hope that my contribution has contributed to furthering the research that will one day help to eradicate this insidious disease - Tony Collier

Tony Collier, Christie patient and fundraiser

Tony Collier
When you hear those awful words ‘cancer’ and ‘incurable’ and it’s you that they are talking about, it’s incredibly tough. No one, other than fellow cancer sufferers, has any idea how indescribably difficult it is. Your world simply falls apart, you are terrified about the future, you don’t understand anything because you can’t focus and you just don’t know how you are going to get through the next five minutes let alone the day.

What made things worse for me was that I went to see a doctor on 8th May this year because I thought I had a groin strain from running and was due to run an ultra-marathon in South Africa on 4th June involving a 56-mile run and 6,500 feet of climbing in very warm weather. I thought that a cortisone injection might sort it out and enable me to compete in the ultra. I had run two marathons a week apart in April, and as far as I was concerned I was superman - super fit and indestructible!

An MRI scan showed something untoward and the doctor sent me for more tests immediately. At 8pm on 9th May the doctor broke the news to me that he thought I had prostate cancer that had spread to the pelvic bone. 

Within two weeks this was confirmed and I knew that the cancer was widespread throughout my bones. I knew that if I didn’t respond to treatment it was likely that I might only have two years left. 

Given that I only passed 60 in February, and was super fit, it would be fair to say that I was totally shell-shocked and my wife and I pretty much fell apart.

Over the following weeks, The Christie became our second home, with weekly visits and lots of tests. 

I had descended into a horrible state of fear, depression and deep concern for the future, often having feelings of total and utter terror.

However, the incredibly dedicated team at The Christie gradually brought us back to a state nearer normality. 

The doctor, nurses and other members of The Christie team helped bring clarity of thought and focus. They gave my wife and I a huge amount of reassurance that we desperately needed. And, whilst things will never be quite the same again, we know that I am in the best hands - safe and caring. We also received support from the Maggie’s centre at The Christie and from Macmillan nurses.

Much of the support I have benefited from is only available at The Christie because of the hospital’s charity, and thousands of amazing fundraisers, who make the additional services possible.

The Christie charity raises money for research, patient care and treatment, education, and extra patient services. 

The Christie’s involvement in clinical trials meant that I was one of the first people to benefit from the findings of the STAMPEDE trial. This meant I had access to an alternative, potentially more beneficial treatment regime and was, at least for the time being, able to avoid chemotherapy.

Tony running
I have also benefitted from the alternative therapies that are funded by The Christie charity. One of the major side effects of prostate cancer treatment is the loss of testosterone which leads to horrendous fatigue plus hot flushes (now I know how the women feel). I was guided to try acupuncture, which is offered to help patients with these side effects, and immediately after the first weekly session felt so much better and able to cope with day to day living.

Over my life, I’ve done massive amounts of community work. In recent years as chairman of Altrincham and Sale chamber of commerce and the Altrincham town centre neighbourhood plan, both organisations are heavily involved in the regeneration of Altrincham town centre. I’m also secretary of my running club, which involves giving up a lot of my time. However, there I was after a cancer diagnosis, the beneficiary of the work of others. Work that may well prolong my life, but will certainly make it more bearable. 

Having seen first-hand the work of The Christie and knowing about its work from friends and family members affected by cancer, I felt that I wanted to give something back. I also needed a challenge and an aim to get me back out running, so I decided to enter the Manchester half marathon.

Doing this gave me some focus and I asked The Christie charity if I could run it for them and raise some funds. I felt pretty comfortable that I would be able to reach the target of £100 but have since been staggered that, with gift aid and off-line donations, I have raised nearly £5,000 with more to come! No pressure then!

Having recovered from a stress fracture of the pelvic bone where it had been weakened by cancer, I got back to running. My oncologist had warned me to expect to be a lot slower due to the lack of testosterone, and I found that it was taking 20% more effort to run 10% slower than pre-treatment. However, I was determined to run this half marathon and there was a lot of money resting on it.

I managed to build up to 10 miles in training, albeit tediously and painfully slow. I took the view that if I could do 10 miles then surely I could do 13.1 on race day. It seemed like a plan!
In 2016 I ran the Manchester half marathon in 1 hour 39 minutes and my best ever time was 1 hour 31 minutes. My ambition for the 2017 race was to finish in one piece without killing myself and, maybe, 2 hours 10 minutes would be possible.

The race morning was an untypical sunny and warm autumn Manchester day, which immediately made things tougher. I decided to run with the sub-two-hour pacemaker (roughly 9 minutes per mile) and see how long I could last. Amazingly, I found myself feeling comfortable running at 8 minutes 45 seconds per mile and pulled ahead of the pacemaker, but always with the thought that I would probably have to walk a bit once I got past 10 miles. Remarkably, I didn’t have to walk and eventually crossed the line in 1 hour 56 minutes feeling totally elated. 

The run gave me a massive mental boost with the thought that I had achieved something that I knew, even to me as an ultra-marathon runner, was going to be really tough. At the same time, I knew that I had done a huge amount of good for an amazing charity that helps me and so many other cancer patients. I hope that my contribution has, in some small way, contributed to furthering the research that will one day help to eradicate this insidious disease which affects the lives of so many people. 

And finally, prostate cancer is often a silent symptomless killer. I would urge all men to get themselves regularly tested from their mid 40’s onwards until the time when regular screening is introduced.

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

Monday, 1 January 2018

I can’t wait for the day when I forget I ever smoked and hope my story inspires other to give up as their New Year’s resolution - Henry ‘H’ Pridding

Henry ‘H’ Pridding - Christie patient

Lots of people who smoke or drink too much will have decided to give up or cut down as a New Year resolution. By sharing my own experiences I hope that it will give others some encouragement to make their resolution stick. If my story inspires even one person to stop smoking that would be great.

I recently completed 30 rounds of head and neck radiotherapy following an operation to my tongue to remove cancer. It was a huge wakeup call and made me realise that I needed to give up smoking, for myself but also for my amazing wife Tina and our five children.

With the help of the smoking cessation team at The Christie – big shout out to Charlotte and Peter – I managed to kick a lifelong smoking habit in October this year. It’s not been easy and I’ve had to be determined but I have succeeded.

I started smoking and drinking over 50 years ago as a teenager. By the time I was in my 30s I began to realise that my drinking was becoming a problem. When I met Tina, I realised that I wanted to turn things around. Through my love for Tina, who was to become my wife, I managed to stop drinking 28 years ago.

When I stopped drinking I had a thought in my head. If I do it for Tina everybody will benefit, and they did. The whole family benefitted. We could afford to buy things for the kids and I could provide more for my family. Respecting and helping other people is very important to me and being able to respect my family was the thing that helped me to become free from the drink.

Unfortunately, giving up smoking took a lot longer, 28 years longer in fact!

When I had my final cigarette I looked at it and simply decided ‘No more’. Since that moment I have not touched another roll-up and can’t wait for the day when I forget I ever smoked, or even forget the date I stopped because it’s no longer of any importance.

When I’m having a bad day or feeling stressed I take a moment to notice what’s winding me up and causing me to feel that way and then instead of reaching for a cig I’ll do something really straightforward that helps me – I’ll make a cup of tea, or have a chat with Tina or make someone laugh. I have a wicked sense of humour and love nothing more than to make people smile, especially Tina.

I’m an old romantic at heart and I wear my heart on my sleeve. I even have a tattoo of a cup of tea on my arm. It is there for my special Tina.

I don’t allow smoking to occupy my thoughts.

A teacher at school told me there is no such thing as no. As an adult, I now realise if I want to do something, no matter what it is, I can. As far as I’m concerned there is no such thing as can’t!

There have been many times in my life where I’ve thought ‘I can’t do it’ and then surprised myself with what I can achieve. I believe that actions speak louder than words and if you believe your fears or doubts then nothing ever changes.

I believe that something good can come from anything. Since being diagnosed with cancer my daughters, who have witnessed my illness and pain, have both stopped smoking.

With the help of everyone at The Christie, the doctors, nurses, smoking cessation team and radiographers, I’ve been able to quit smoking. To use a Manchester adage, ‘Nice one’!

To find out more about smoking and alcohol cessation services at The Christie please visit