Christie staff members were on top of the world this week after conquering one of the highest mountains in the world and raising vital research funds.
Amy Blackburn, sporting events officer for The Christie charity, and project managers Phil Turner and James Weightman, took on the exhausting challenge of climbing 5,895m Kilimanjaro to raise money for proton beam therapy research at Manchester’s specialist cancer hospital The Christie.
They joined a team from partner organisation Seddon who named The Christie as its Charity of Choice for 2017 – 2019. The Kilimanjaro Challenge was one of many national fundraising initiatives being undertaken in its support. Representatives from engineering consultants Arup, who are working on the UK’s first high energy proton beam therapy (PBT) centre currently under construction at The Christie, also joined the trek. The team arrived back this week from the 10-day trip to Tanzania having raised more than £20,000.
Amy, 27, from Warrington, suffered from severe altitude sickness approaching the summit of Africa’s highest mountain. She said: “It wasn't long ago that I had never even set foot in a gym so this was me going massively out of my comfort zone, but it was nothing compared to the battles that some of The Christie patients and their families face on a daily basis.
“I’d completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge and the National Three Peaks but this was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
”I fell ill a couple of hours from the summit and the medic found my oxygen levels were dangerously low. The rest of the team carried on and even though I didn’t quite make it I’m still happy I got so close – and I beat my fundraising target!”
Phil and James made it to the top of the mountain. Phil, from Marple near Stockport, said: “I’ve been involved in the proton project for several years and it’s been a privilege to work with a wonderful team of people. This has been an opportunity to give something back.”
Vanessa Barlow, socially responsible manager at Seddon, said: “Climbing Kilimanjaro was an experience of a lifetime. It was certainly a challenge and also a privilege to undertake such a challenge in support of the incredible work done at The Christie every day.”
PBT is a specialist form of radiotherapy that targets cancers very precisely, increasing success rates and reducing side-effects. It targets tumours with less damage to surrounding healthy tissue and is particularly appropriate for certain cancers in children who are at risk of lasting damage to organs that are still growing.
It has been offered overseas to NHS patients who are eligible for treatment in England since 2008 in a programme that has to date supported approximately 1,000 patients. From August 2018 The Christie will begin treating patients in Manchester as the UK’s first NHS high energy centre. University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) will follow in summer 2020.
One of the projects the charity is focusing on this year is funding a research room for the PBT centre. The centre has been designed to include the research room so The Christie can use the proton beam not only to deliver lifesaving treatment to patients, but to carry out groundbreaking research.
The Christie charity is fundraising for the proportional cost of the dedicated research room and the state-of-the-art equipment that will be needed so that the Trust can make the most of this new facility - and improve outcomes for even more patients.