It has been a strange old year for me, personally, as I had a big operation earlier in the year – a kidney transplant, in fact, donating for my Dad. Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend one, the Op certainly gave me useful time to think and reflect on where I head next in life! It also made me see from an even more personal perspective how amazing the NHS is, even though it always gets a hammering.
All is well, save the fact my Dad often likes to remind me he now has a “Ferrari for a kidney”.
First, I am leaving Macmillan. Cancer care was and is personal for me, as it is for most of us.
When I was 17 years old my mother was diagnosed with cancer. When I was 17 years old I was told my mother’s cancer was terminal. Just after I turned 18, my sisters and I lost our dear Mum, Sue. Things just felt so out of our control. Twenty years ago, in just two weeks’ time, we heard about this most awful diagnosis. I remember I had a French tuition session with the wonderful Mrs Page that Monday afternoon, Monday October 11th 1999. She seemed to sense what was coming. She reached out to me. Her humanness – her compassion – did I ever thank her? I don’t even know if she’s still alive.
Are things really very different now for 17-year old sons (and daughters) or anyone for that matter who either hear a loved one or they themselves sadly has received a diagnosis of cancer? It’s all so highly individual and subjective. I see the statistics. Survival outcomes are improving (on average). Treatment regimes’ are changing with new drugs and solutions sometimes (not always) coming into the NHS.
But still, too many people die from this bastard of a disease. It’s not a disease that has to be treated as if it’s a war, to be “battled”. But it is a disease, – for some, it is increasingly a long-term condition but that too has many consequences.
I regret I haven’t personally done more campaigning for improvements and I leave the sector so hugely proud I worked for an organisation like Macmillan, but humbled and a little frustrated too I didn’t match many of my personal aspirations around what I might be able to influence. There’s still so much to do. So, so, ….so much.
This is a daunting but exciting new step for me – I have worked in policy for 15 years now – and all that time has been spent in the charity sector. Working in disability policy and health and care.
It’s helpful to take a step away, if a little strange, as it’s been my only compass for my whole working life (working to influence policy-makers). I can only hope that if-and-when I look to return to public policy, it’s in a more benign environment. An environment, as Nicholas Soames was reflecting the other night [I can’t believe I am quoting Nicholas Soames], that little bit more understanding. Influencing in the heyday of the Blair and Brown-years was super. In the Cameron-Osborne years it was gruelling, but for the most part, satisfactory. And ever since? To be honest, it has somewhat defeated me. But I love campaigning. I love everyone else who does. It’s at times like this we need campaigners.
I say to all my fellow campaigning and policy-geeks: “keep up the good fight”. For that’s what campaigners do: fight.
By the way – the photo below was before the 2010 General Election, when working in policy was comparatively a lot more fun. It was a lovely weekend in Brighton that Steph and I spent remembering and celebrating our Mum ten years after she passed. I feel I have aged terribly badly since then…time indeed for a reset…!