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Navigating our way through a new era of fundraising

Lara Jukes is the Director of Development at The Institute of Cancer Research, London. Here she shares her personal thoughts on the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the charity, the life-saving research it supports, and those who benefit from it.

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Our researchers in the laboratory wearing Alice's Arc face coverings during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

We’re all in uncharted territory – this new age of video calling, mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing has changed our lives so much. Many of us have lost friends and family to this terrible virus and, even if we’ve been fortunate enough to escape its touch, our lives and plans have been disrupted – work, weddings, holidays, so much that we once took for granted.

One of the hardest parts is not knowing what lies ahead – not being able to plan for the future with confidence. None of us knows if this is the new normal or life as we knew it will suddenly return. But, if you’re living with cancer, this isn’t a new feeling – particularly if your cancer is at an advanced stage.

Facing up to uncertainty

A cancer diagnosis can throw your plans up in the air, leaving you with a fear of the unknown. Cancer can cause an uncertain future – forcing patients to live from month to month, scan to scan, appointment to appointment, waiting to hear if a treatment has worked, or has stopped working.

Cancer patients have shared some of their fears with us – not knowing if they will see their children grow up, or be around for their big milestones, not knowing if they can go on their dream holiday because of treatment. Time lived well is important for everyone but it’s impossible to take it for granted, if you’re living with incurable cancer.

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Mother of two, Sally, is living with stage 4 melanoma and one of the voices of our recent fundraising appeal

If there’s one positive to take from it, this crisis has caused many of us to reflect on what we value and what’s important in our lives. For me, and I imagine for countless others, it’s helped reinforce the need to make the most of life and take pleasure in quite simple things.

We’ve all had to spend time apart from loved ones. We’ve not been able to spend time doing the things we love. We’ve had to spend less time face to face, and more time screen to screen. It’s made me even more committed to making a difference for people with cancer – and helping to support our scientists who are making the discoveries that will make that difference.

Investing in patients’ futures

I’m driven by a deep belief that research is an investment in improving the future for cancer patients. We’re building that future now – our visionary research could mean a future where even those with advanced cancer will be able to live well for so much longer with their disease.

However, due to COVID-19, many of our scientists had to step away from their lab benches. Each one of them knows the potential impact of their work, which makes it all the more difficult to put that pipette down or step back from the microscope – it’s been devastating for them to take time away from a cause to which they’re so dedicated.


Lara Jukes at a Supporter Afternoon Tea event last year, which was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic

As a research institute, we now face serious threats to our income as research funding is cut and, as a charity, we are suffering because so many fundraising events have had to be cancelled. While so many are focusing on tackling COVID-19, we cannot take one eye off cancer, and risk cancer patients being left behind.

We may have had to put our lives or work on pause for COVID-19, but cancer has not been doing the same. Our own modelling research has shown that the coronavirus will have a huge impact on cancer diagnosis and treatment – our discoveries will be needed more than ever in the years to come.

Kick-starting our research

We recently launched our major ‘kick-start’ fundraising appeal to help our scientists make up for the many valuable research hours lost. We don’t want this pandemic to damage our long-term progress and delay any discoveries that might help give more time to people living with cancer.

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Professor Udai Banerji who has spent time on the NHS frontline during the coronavirus crisis

We are all so touched by the support we’ve had so far from you – and so many of our scientists have also been inspired to help fundraise for each other’s vital research, whether it’s been through feats of endurance or artistic endeavour. But our work is not yet done – we need to raise more crucial funds for our research, if we are going to ensure our scientists are as supported as possible to make up for the time they have lost to COVID-19.

While uncertainty and keeping physically distanced from one another may have become the norm, it is my hope that we can all come together to support research that will help bring some certainty to the lives of people with cancer and ensure they are able to have as much time as possible with loved ones.

Thank you for continuing to help us make the discoveries that defeat cancer.

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