Sunday, 8 July 2012

Just who are Factor 50?

Recently, during a moment of cheek, I said to Dan, ‘I’m funny, I’ll write something for you…..’ However, having thought about what I do, I figured that I’d write something a bit more meaningful and see if I managed to get it past Liam and Dan’s strict criteria. 

Gill Nuttall from Factor 50 with Stuart Law and Luke Sutton
So, given that one of the questions in The Middle Stump’s brilliant Q & A section is “what do you know about Factor 50?’ I thought I would paint the Factor 50 picture for anyone who is interested.

I think it is safe to say that most people who were brought up in the 60s and 70s, knew little or nothing about protection in the sun – indeed quite the opposite.  During our annual family holiday to Blackpool my Granddad would regularly tell my mother to ‘Get her out in the sun, she’s too bloody pale’, and my mother would listen to him and allow me to play out in the sun all day long. If you have seen the photograph of Andy Flower and me, you will see I’m very pale indeed, I am meant to be so – I use false tan all the time (I was told recently I smell like breakfast cereal!!)  I should never have been allowed to play outside in baking temperatures. But as I say, I think in those days, people could be forgiven for not realising the danger that the sun poses.

In 2002, after years of trying to get a good tan, using sun beds (yes I did, I am so ashamed of that now, but I used them a lot) I received a call from a family friend, Jon Herron, who had just had a mole removed. He said “You know that mole? Well it’s been tested, it was malignant melanoma”.  It was just a couple of months after I had lost my father very suddenly, and I remember thinking “It’s just a mole, it’s gone now, you’re going to be ok” and I had no real idea of how serious it could be. If I’m honest, I was so consumed with trying to deal with my own grief at the loss of my dad, that I never really gave it much thought.  

In 2006 Jon’s melanoma returned and he underwent a 9 and a half hour operation during which several diseased lymph nodes were removed – he was in a very serious and difficult situation. He underwent treatment after the surgery and was just starting to pick up the pieces of his life again, when it returned in 2007. This time there was no hiding from the seriousness of his situation, he had malignant melanoma, it was at Stage IV and in June 2007 just before he was due to begin a clinical trial, he found out that he had 2 brain tumours. I won’t say anything further at this point, for anyone who wants to read the rest of Jon’s story, they can do so here:

In the summer of 2007, I did the Race for Life with my best friend – Jon was at the end of it waiting for us, a little smile on his face and he just said “Thanks girls” because he knew that there was no way we would have been doing that had it not been for him. I am crap at running and decided that that was best left to more athletic (younger!) people but when in December 2007 I found out from Jon’s doctor that there was no cure for his illness (I hadn’t realised that) and that the funding they received for research wasn’t as much as they’d like – I decided I had to do something. To cut a long story short, I set up www.factor50.org.uk and started fundraising for The Christie.

Although we all knew that Jon was not going to survive his battle against this dreadful illness, we carried on hoping for a miracle, just a small one. Jon used to say “I promise I’ll fight for as long as I can, I’m not going to let my grandparents bury a grandson, I will do my best”  but sadly he passed away on 21 May 2008, just a month after his 30th birthday. 

The cricket connection came during the month that Jon passed away, when Warren Hegg got Luke Sutton and Stuart Law to do a photo shoot with me, lending their support and endorsing the campaign.  Since then the relationship with cricket has taken off and in summer of 2011, Andy Flower became an Ambassador of the work that Factor 50 is doing. Most people reading this probably know that Andy has had malignant melanoma himself. 

What started off as me just wanting to make a bit of a difference has now turned into something that some days takes my breath away. With a lot of support from a lot of lovely people, my family and friends, Jon’s family and friends, melanoma patients and families throughout the UK and my work colleagues, we have achieved so much since Jon passed away. Factor 50 is now a part of the Government’s melanoma task force, I am a stake holder with NICE, I form part of the melanoma study group and we have raised in excess of £170k since that first £5 online donation on 8 April 2008 – the fundraising has been in the form of corporate dinners, sponsored sporting events – you name it. It hasn’t all been about fundraising, I’m also heavily involved in raising awareness, I visit schools to talk about care in the sun and use of sun beds and more recently I spoke to a group of Foxy Fowler’s students at Durham – we are getting the message out there.

Gill, ex England player Graeme Fowler and his students at Durham MCCU...getting the message out there
 
So, there you have it, that is what Factor 50 is all about. It has been an eventful few years, in some respects I wish that I wasn’t doing any of this because that would mean that we hadn’t lost a bright little light from our lives – but Jon did die, and what I want to do is make sure that his name continues to be mentioned every day and that what I started in his name goes on for a very long time. 




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