It’s been about eight months since Cathy Brokenshire lost her husband, James, to lung cancer and now, as time starts to heal the most painful of wounds, Cathy has picked up James’s mantle and joined us in our campaign for lung cancer screening.
“James had a moral compass. He always wanted to do good and help people. That’s why he went into politics.
When he was diagnosed with lung cancer, this became another thing he wanted to try and make better. Now that’s what I’m trying to do. If I can help one other family to not have to go through what I’ve been through, it’s a win.”
Cathy’s support started immediately after James’s death on 7th October when she set up a Lasting Tribute page, asking those who knew James to donate. The page currently stands at over £73,000 and is full of wonderful memories of a man who transcended political allegiances.
James was never one to court publicity whilst Cathy did everything she could to avoid it completely. But after experiencing the devastating consequence of this disease and recognising the impact of the pandemic has had on lung cancer, she bravely stepped out of her comfort zone and shared her story.
The media took notice
What started out as a blustery day on platform 7 at Cannon Street Station to mark the naming of a train in honour of James ended in a media frenzy, with Channel 4 News, Good Morning Britain and BBC Breakfast all wanting to give airtime to this important issue.
Joined on the breakfast sofa by patient advocate and charity trustee, Mandee Lucas, Cathy once again called out for a national screening programme for lung cancer, just as James had done in parliament back in 2018.
“Our stories are very different. Mandee is five year’s all clear whereas I sadly lost James, but hopefully we can team up and create something.
We’re calling for national screening. That’s the end goal but it’s also about raising awareness along the way. It’s that ripple effect of getting people talking about it and breaking down the stigma attached to lung cancer.
Sadly, James can’t continue that fight but I’m here and I’m willing, ready and able to do that. We want a lot more Mandees and far fewer Jameses.”
The day of the BBC Breakfast interview enquiries to our helpline rocketed by 540%. Our incredible nurses were answering questions about symptoms from worried viewers and providing support to those already living with lung cancer who had been made aware of the help we offer.
“Just found your site after watching BBC Breakfast today. I have downloaded your booklets and will read them later today. I would like to thank you for this information.”
There was also a 284% increase in visits to our signs and symptoms webpage, as viewers took on board Cathy and Mandee’s advice and sought to remedy any gaps that they had in their knowledge about potential symptoms.
Turning words into action
The National Screening Committee has now launched its public consultation on lung cancer screening. This allows professionals, organisations, and the general public to share their thoughts on lung cancer and a screening programme. All responses will then form part of a review before a decision is made.
“This is incredible news and takes us a significant step forward in achieving a national screening programme for lung cancer,” concludes Cathy. “I wish James was here to see the progress we’ve made but I know he’d be so proud.
“It’s quite overwhelming to think that soon a screening for lung cancer could be a reality, helping more people to live though lung cancer than die of it. That was James’s wish and I hope it’s about it come true.”
Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation is urging everyone affected by lung cancer to make their voices heard and submit comments to the consultation before it closes on 8th June 2022.
For more information, visit roycastle.org/screening