I’ve never wanted a blog. Why on earth would anyone really want to read about what I’m up to, what I’m thinking? I guess this is just another way in which working with this charity has changed me. So, here is my blog - keep coming back for more details. This is where you can donate.
People connected with the charity, and the people who know me, know that over the course of 2012 I led the Mad Hatters Challenge, a series of marathons, triathlons and other physical challenges to raise £10,000 for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. It was inspired by my friend Steven Blears, who lost his two-year battle with Leukaemia in 2003 at the age of 19.
When the running finally stopped at the London Marathon in April 2011, around 50 people had helped and the Challenge had raised more than £15,000. It filled everyone involved with a sense of fun, purpose, and achievement.
Despite exceeding its goals, by the time I crossed the line in London I couldn’t shake the feeling that the Challenge had amounted to a missed opportunity. Put together quickly – with little regard to strategy, lacking a true understanding of blood cancers and what the money we raised would fund – I hadn’t thought enough about how the energy and skill of those involved could have maximum impact.
The feeling has stayed with me, so I have decided to launch a new campaign. Bigger. More ambitious. With more at stake. Because of the Mad Hatters Challenge – thanks to some covert work by some very close friends – the powers that be decided to give me the Olympic Torch. My slot is in London, the day before the Opening Ceremony. It’s the greatest honour of my life and I plan to get every morsel of meat off the bones, but more than that it gives me the exposure to launch something big. An audience that large is too good an opportunity to pass up.
Initially I wanted to call the new campaign IMAGINE. When asked to speak at conferences and events for LLR, I have often challenged people to imagine a world without blood cancer. Talking my plans through with the staff at LLR there was a timely opportunity to join forces and work together to develop a new bigger campaign - the Leading Light campaign.
The Leading Light campaign will begin on Sunday, where the Mad Hatters Challenge ended, at the London Marathon. It will be fully launched on 26 July, which is Torch Day. By the time the next Olympics starts in Rio, I hope I can contribute to the campaign by raising £1 million to fund new research by encouraging other people, companies, anybody to get involved and raise money.
It’s a lot of money, but it’s not just about the money. I want more people to understand blood cancer. I want more people to give blood, and more people to sign up as bone marrow donors. It will be hard, but if enough people come together with the same spirit of generosity and purpose that drove the Mad Hatters Challenge, we have a chance.
I know that LLR are really committed to the campaign and they have plans to expand it further, hopefully involving lots more people and raising even more money.
In any case, there is no harm in trying. Before this charity, children with Leukaemia would not survive. Today, 9 in 10 survive for 5 years or more. Anyone who has seen a child go through chemotherapy knows how important it is that we work to turn the 9 into a 10.
My generation will see a world without blood cancer, I am sure of it. Through working with Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research I have a better understanding of the science, and how skilled researchers with focused clinical trials really do save lives. In partnership with Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, they will bring us a cure. Our job is to make it as easy as possible for them. The fact that thousands of people in the UK are living with blood cancer right now should give us all the urgency we need.
I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to be doing each year, but so far this year I’m going to cycle Lands End to John O’Groats, take part in the Alpine Challenge with Geoff Thomas and the guys, and run from Coast to Coast along Hadrian’s Wall. On this blog, I’ll be keeping you up to date with the training – which can be pretty gruelling at times – as well as the events themselves. I’ll also be talking about why I’m motivated to put this campaign together. I want to tell you about Steven. I want to talk about how it’s ok to work hard, to have fun and to grieve all at the same time.
Above all, I want you to get involved. If this doesn’t become a team effort then it will basically just be me running, cycling and swimming for no reason. You can join me on a run, you can do your own, or something different – cake sales, sponsored silences, whatever brings the money in! And at all times you can use the Just Giving page – it’s not my page, it’s everyone’s page. You can give blood, or encourage others too. Pick your own contribution, tell us about it, and become part of the solution.
Individual contributions sometimes don’t feel very big, but if enough people with the right will and energy make a contribution, the total of all those acts will deliver something extraordinary. The Mad Hatters Challenge taught me that. Time to up the ante.