Life

Manchester’s Unsung Heroes: Factor 50 charity doing their bit in battle against skin cancer

By Alex Bysouth

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and can be life threatening.

Gill Nuttall saw a close family friend diagnosed in March 2007 and, determined to make a difference to other sufferers, set-up patient support group Factor 50 in April the same year.

Sadly, Gill’s friend passed away in May 2008.

Continuing her full-time job at a law firm, Gill, from Oldham, launched Factor 50 to raise money for Manchester-based cancer research centre The Christie and has since raised almost £250,000 with fundraising groups right across the country.

“It does take a lot of my time, but it is something I am very passionate about,” she said. “I’ve seen friends die of melanoma and have watched other people and their families suffer.

“There’s a young lady from Manchester, her husband died and left her with two children. We’ve become really good pals now, we see each other every month and speak to each other on the phone – you do become very attached to these people.”

Melanoma affects 13,000 people every year with 3,000 deaths annually – a figure that is continuing to rise – and it is believed by 2030 it will be recognised as one of cancer’s biggest killers.

“In the grand scheme of things 3,000 deaths doesn’t sound an awful lot,” explained Gill. “But it affects a lot of young people – and it’s becoming a big killer.”

Gill admits her own experiences, and the personal nature of Factor 50, mean she often becomes attached to the patients and families of sufferers.

“I have become friends with a lot of the people we’ve helped,” she said. “It can be sad at times.

“There was a patient I was giving support to and he was due to attend a meeting in London.

“When I got there I was asking people where he was, but they told me he had died the night before.

“Times like that are really, really sad, but you just have to get on with it.”

Through her continued hard work Gill has become a stake holder with The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as well as being part of the government’s melanoma task force team involved in the appraisals of two new skin cancer drugs.

Juggling a full-time career with her work at Factor 50, Gill spends a majority of her free time focussed on patient support.

“It’s just gone on from strength to strength, I go to Westminster about once a month meeting with ministers to keep the skin cancer issue at the forefront of their mind,” she explained.

“I’m lucky because my children are grown up now, this time ten years ago I would never have been able to do it. We’ve had six enquiries in the space of ten days.

“I spoke to one patient over the weekend who needs referral from one hospital to another so he can get the correct treatment.

“There are some times I can just step in the middle of that and make a call because I have done it for so long now.”

A number of sport stars have given Factor 50 their backing, with ambassadors including footballer David Healy, former Soccer AM presenter, now Sunday Brunch host, Tim Lovejoy and England Test Cricket Head Coach Andy Flower, who himself underwent surgery on a melanoma in 2010.

“I had some good connections at Lancashire County Cricket so they managed to put me in contact with Andy – right away he wanted to help us,” added Gill.

Combining her love for cricket and her passionate Factor 50 work, Gill has now teamed up with Liam Kenna and Dan Whiting, authors of popular cricket blog The Middle Stump, ahead of their book ‘Cricket Banter’ being released this April.

The Middle Stump double act conduct a series of interviews with cricket professionals, hoping to raise awareness of melanoma and skin cancer and have pledged a donation towards Gill’s ongoing hard-work.

“Obviously in cricket you’re out in the sun for long periods of time,” explained Liam. “So it’s an extremely important issue and people need to be aware of the risks.”

“Gill’s a human dynamo and someone who works tirelessly for an extremely good cause,” added Dan.

For more information, or to make a donation to Factor 50, visit www.factor50.org.uk

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