We'rejust 15 Years Away from Knowing What Causes Lung Cancer; (... If Only We Can Get the Cash to Fund Our Research) Professor Ray Donnelly Talks to Tony Barrett about His Active Retirement, His Beloved Charity and His Determination to Find a Cure for the Disease
Byline: Ray Donnelly
WHEN Professor Ray Donnelly put away his scalpel for the final time eight years ago the word was that one of Liverpool's pre-eminent surgeons had retired.
Since then Ray has fundraised, lobbied, campaigned and fought on behalf of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation he established 15 years ago.
And, as if all that was not enough, he has somehow found the time to write a book about his experiences on the frontline of the battle for the search for a cure for lung cancer.
So then Ray, this retirement lark is not really for you is it?
"I had to make a decision to either stop the charity work or give up my life's work as a surgeon and I chose the latter.
"The thing is, my passion is as strong now as it was in the beginning so while I still have something to offer I will continue my work on behalf of the foundation."
With five children and two grandchildren, a golf handicap he would dearly love to be lowered and the milestone of his 70th birthday recently reached, Ray, who himself has battled with cancer, would undoubtedly be forgiven if he decided to take things a bit easier and back away from the campaign.
The big problem is so much has already been achieved and with even greater advancements looming large on the horizon walking away now is simply not an option.
"I was talking recently with our director of research and he believes we are now 80% of the way towards finding out how lung cancer develops," says Ray.
"The ultimate aim is to finally understand all of the mechanisms involved in the development of lung cancer so then we can stop it from killing people - and I don't think this is too far away.
"The next 15 years will see major developments towards this aim provided we get the funding."
Ah, the dreaded f-word.
It is only since Ray and the late Roy Castle joined forces to raise awareness of lung cancer in the 1990s that the disease lost much of the stigma associated with it, thereby creating the conditions for considerable funds to be raised.
As Ray readily admits the negative attitudes of some politicians, medical professionals and even patients needed to be overcome before such progress could be made.
But with the public perception of lung cancer now changed for the better the foundation can now concentrate more of its efforts on fundraising.
And Ray hopes the people of Merseyside will be as ready to play their part as they always have been.
"I can say without any doubt that we quite simply would not be where we are today without the people of Merseyside," he insists. …