Byline: Ray Donnelly
IT was a cloudy Wednesday afternoon on April 18, 1990 when I sat down at exactly 4pm with my secretary and one of my patients and chaired the first formal meeting to begin a new charity for lung cancer.
We called ourselves the Lung Cancer Fund and I still have the minutes of that meeting which set out the blueprint of what we wanted to do. This plan was modified a little over the first couple of years but has remained essentially the same since that time.
I was still in my operating clothes, having just come out of theatre, and, although I felt that we were doing something new and important to tackle the problem of lung cancer, I had no real sense of how big we would become and what an impact the charity would have both in this country and abroad. My thinking was always to take it as it came and see how things developed. We would achieve whatever transpired.
I was amazed at how, from the very beginning, the people of Liverpool and the local media got behind us, encouraged us and made it possible for us to become the large and successful organisation we are today. Because of the high rate of lung cancer in Liverpool, so many of them had personal experience one way or another of the problem and saw in us a cause for hope. The first donation I ever received was a cheque for pounds 100 from Tom and Helen Guest. Tom was a patient of mine from whom I had removed four different lung cancers. He was a master butcher and used to say that his profession and mine were very similar!
I also remember vividly passing the pounds 1,000 mark and thinking 'We're on our way!'.
As we began to raise money and fund research and other activities, it became clear that we were the only charity making any serious attempt to highlight the seriousness of the problem of lung cancer, doing something about it and speaking up for lung cancer patients and their loved ones. In those days lung cancer was very low down in the public health agenda and there were negative attitudes everywhere - among politicians, health authorities, doctors, nurses and even patients themselves. And no-one ever spoke about passive smoking.
It was a huge uphill battle but we persisted, developing programmes in research, patient support and tobacco control. After a few years Roy Castle came on board for the last eight months of his life and gave us such an impetus that, a year after he died, I persuaded the trustees to put his name on the charity. And so we became the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. Roy was a real hero and did so much to help us realise our dreams and ambitions.
A little while ago, I set out the history of the charity's first 15 years in my book 'Cinderella Cancer'. I wanted to record for posterity as many as I could of the people who made our successes possible. As time went by it would have been so easy for them to have been forgotten for ever and I didn't want that to happen since we owe them so much. …