Ben Sykes
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Freemasonry... their charitable secrets revealed!

Ben Sykes
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16 May 2013

This guest blog was written by the Priory Gate Masonic Lodge.  They chose to support Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research throughout 2012 following the diagnosis of a Past Master of the lodge with a rare form of leukaemia.

In the wider world and popular press, Freemasonry has a reputation of being a secret society. Actually it’s not.

Secret societies don’t tend to throw black tie dinners and invite as many of their friends and families as they can find…nor do they tend to let out their Head Office as a film set. Those of you familiar with the BBC’s Spooks, might not know that the imposing front door of ‘Thames House’ is actually Freemasons Hall in Gt. Queen Street – a few hundred yards from the Eagle Street offices of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.

However, the one thing that Freemasons do seem very good at keeping secret is the fact that the organisation is one of the UK largest single contributors to charity, second only to the National Lottery.

Since 1980, the four Freemasons Grand Charities have distributed over £100 million to people in need, with grants going to national charities of all sizes, helping vulnerable people, funding medical research and supporting youth opportunities. This amount has been raised by the 250,000 active UK Freemasons, their families and friends.

In addition to fund raising for the Four Grand Charities, each individual Lodge supports local causes and charities which are particularly dear to its heart. One of the biggest Lodge fund raisers are the ‘Ladies Festivals’ which are organised each year by the Master of the Lodge, as a thank you to his and all the other masonic ladies for putting up with their men in the past year and to raise monies for their chosen charity.

When W.Bro Nick Tyrrell became Worshipful Master of the Priory Gate Lodge in 2012, he and his wife Connie, chose Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research because Brian, their friend of over 25 years and Nick’s proposer into Freemasonry had recently been diagnosed with a rare blood cancer.

So, on March 16th 2013 at the Runnymede Hotel, Egham, 90 members of the Priory Gate Lodge and their guests joined the Worshipful Master and his wife Connie, for a banquet dinner and dance.

The evening raised over £1,800 for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research with a further donation from a Lodge member who was unable to attend, bringing the total raised to £1,900.

Here is Brian’s story:

Brian has lived with the spectre of leukaemia in one form and another for over  30 years.  His Mum (Margaret) was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) in 1980 when she was 41, and his daughter, Rachel, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) in 1988, when she was 3. 

Sadly, Brian lost his Mum to the disease after a long struggle when she was just 54, but fortunately his daughter is fit and well and continues in good health.

Against this background, Brian was therefore devastated to be diagnosed with Hyper Eosinophilic Syndrome/Chronic Eosinophilic Leukaemia (HES/CEL) in May 2012. 

His health had begun to deteriorate in 2010 and after a protracted period of chasing an elusive diagnosis, an abnormal routine blood test before a neck operation showed a very high level of eosinophils, leading eventually to a diagnosis of HES/CEL in May 2012.

HES/CEL is a disease in which too many eosinophils (a type of white blood cell) are found in the bone marrow, blood, and other tissues. In about 5 to 10% of cases of CEL, there is an abnormal gene present which is known as FIP1L1-PDGFRA. CEL is an incredibly rare disease, but, when the FIP1L1-PDGFRA mutation is present, a drug called Imatinib (Glivec) will suppress the oncogenic (cancer-causing) effects of the gene mutation.

There is (currently) no cure for HES/CEL and Brian will need to take medication for the rest of his life.  As of Feb 13, he is in haematological remission (his blood counts are now all normal) and he is hoping to achieve molecular remission (no sign of the disease in the bone marrow) as soon as possible!  

Nick and Brian presented a cheque to Regional Manager, Ben Sykes at the Eagle Street offices on 10th May.

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