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  • Writer's pictureRay Donnelly

Paula Chadwick's reflection address of 2021

Chief Executive Officer Address - Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral - 3 October 2021

Good afternoon – my name is Paula Chadwick and I have the honour and privilege of being the CEO of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. I was so honoured when Professor Donnelly asked me if I would like to talk to you all at today’s Pause for Hope Service, it is a privilege to share my thoughts and reflect on my time with the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

Well to start with I never thought 25 years ago when I applied for the position of assistant to Professor Donnelly that I would be standing here in front of you in the role of CEO for such an amazing charity! And to be honest I do not believe I would be without Professor Donnelly - for it was he who believed in me, encouraged me, supported and most definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, to apply for the position, for which I will be eternally grateful.

So my journey began in 1995 when I saw Roy Castle at Lime Street Station on the Tour of Hope, how inspirational he was. I was so moved by his bravery, by his dedication to create a better future for lung cancer patients, that I too began collecting money in my bucket to enable the world first research centre for lung cancer to be built, here in Liverpool. So in 1997 when I saw the job advert for Assistant to Professor Donnelly, I knew instantly that The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation was where I was meant to be, such was the impact of the late, great, Roy Castle as well as the reputation of Professor Donnelly himself.

I do believe that I am truly blessed as I love my job, in fact I have the best job in the world. The people I have met over the years have been not only inspiring, but truly remarkable, they have had such an impact on my life; and many have become very close friends.

That’s not to say being CEO of a cancer charity is easy, it takes a lot of hard work, a dedicated team of people and truly amazing supporters – and that is exactly what we have.

When I first joined Roy Castle Foundation, the future for cancer patients was bleak, treatment options were very limited, chemotherapy was toxic and left patients feeling extremely ill. It was heart breaking to see people go through such harsh treatment.

However, fast forward to 2021 and the advances that are being made are phenomenal. We have long known that early detection gives the best outcome for any cancer, and we are delighted to see that lung health check pilots are now being undertaken nationally, with more scheduled to start next year. These pilots will help identify lung cancers at their earliest stage, when curative treatment could still be available. We are hopeful that the evidence from these pilots will result in National Lung Cancer Screening being introduced, something that was just a vision 25 years ago, but look where we are now.

We are also seeing amazing results in the world of research, for all cancers, which has led to new drugs that are kinder and target specific and have the ability to extend life. More drugs are being developed as I speak.

The last 18 months have been extremely difficult for everyone due to the Covid pandemic, not least for those with a cancer diagnosis who were vulnerable, fearful and alone. For lung cancer patients, the charity introduced a new Keep in Touch service alongside our Ask the Nurse Helpline, for those who were shielding; a friendly voice at the end of the phone was a much-appreciated lifeline to so many.

What I am most proud of is throughout the pandemic how charities showed their ability to adapt and work together, to support each other and those most in need. Collaboration has been at the heart of our response to the pandemic and to support cancer patients and the NHS through these difficult times however we could.

It is so rewarding to see the impact we make for patients, through research, support, advice or just listening to them, they become our friends, part of the Roy Castle family. But it is also heart breaking when unfortunately we lose patients – that is very difficult to deal with – but with loved ones permission, we celebrate their life, making sure their stories are heard, and that their experiences make a difference to the future of others.

And it is people like Joanna who make what we do so important, so worthwhile. Joanna diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2019 when she was 34 years of age, just six months after giving birth to her baby daughter Freya, what a way to find out that her morning sickness was not actually morning sickness but lung cancer! She was told at the time that future children would not be an option going forward, and there was not much hope. But guess what miracles happen and Joanna gave birth to her second baby girl Dylann in June! Joanna now wants to share her story, she wants to get the message out that anybody diagnosed, especially at stage 4 when they’re told its incurable, inoperable, terminal, all that terminology that can make you feel that your life is over – its really not. There’s always hope, and miracles can happen Joanna is living proof, it is through new breakthroughs in drugs that she has been given more time, she is living every day as a blessing, and enjoying being a wife, and a mummy to her two beautiful daughters – this is what hope looks like!

So finally, I would like to thank you for listening to me today and supporting the Pause for Hope service, which helps us to reflect, celebrate and remind us there is always hope for the future.

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