Hollywood may be all aflutter as the 91st Academy Awards are in town but here at Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, we are equally as excited as we prepare for our own ‘Oscars’ – Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation Star Awards.
With nominations open as of today, our Director of Marketing and Communications, Rachel Avery, looks back on the first time she attended the event:
“The Star Awards are beyond special. Everything about them – from reading all the incredible nominations, to the impossible task of shortlisting the nominees, the moment people start to arrive, to the love, tinged with a little sadness, that fills the room – it can be a little overwhelming.
My first Star Awards was in 2017 and it was incredibly personal. I had nominated our former patient advocate, Katie Cohen, for the Visionary Award, an accolade awarded to a person who is striving for a better future for other individuals and families affected by lung cancer. This was Katie.
I’d been at the charity for about four months when I first spoke to Katie, interviewing her for our magazine, Inspire. She talked openly and honestly about her disease, eloquently yet firmly describing the isolation she experienced and the judgement she faced.
She echoed these thoughts and feelings at the Palace of Westminster, addressing MPs and senior figures from the world of medicine and health policy. Katie said out loud things that thousands of other lung cancer patients have only felt privately.
This honesty inspired others to share their stories, to keep lung cancer at the forefront of people’s minds so that, in Katie’s words, “the generations after me do not have to experience what my family and I have”.
Katie died before she could receive her award, so I reached out to her husband, Daniel, writing a letter sharing the impact Katie had had on the charity and me personally. I told him she had been shortlisted for the Visionary Award and he made the decision to come to the event, just two months after Katie’s death.
I remember scouring the room, trying to spot this man who I had only ever seen in photos with Katie. Then I saw him. I went over and introduced myself and, even though on paper we were practically strangers, it felt like the most natural thing to embrace.
The Visionary Award was up first. I already knew the result. As Katie’s name was read out, Daniel rose to his feet and strode to the stage. He took a deep breath and spoke about Katie. I can’t remember what he said, I only remember the tears streaming down my face.
And the night continued like that. Remarkable people rising to their feet to accept these thoroughly deserved awards. My make-up didn’t stand a chance!
I was fortunate to have Daniel sat to my left. On my right sat another award winner, Joe Crofts.
Joe was diagnosed with early stage lung cancer when he was in his 30s. Fortunately, the early diagnosis meant he could have curative treatment and had part of his lung removed.
Following his diagnosis, Joe took up cycling – and we’re not just talking about a gentle little cycle to and from work, or through the park on a Sunday. Joe cycled from London to Paris over four days with part of his lung missing to raise money for us.
At a time when we face much uncertainty and working for a charity where we lose far too many people, as cliched as it sounds, Star Awards restores your faith in humanity. Incredible people, doing incredible things at the worst time of their lives so other people, people they have never met, don’t have to go through what they have.
Emotions run high but it is a celebration and I can’t wait for this year’s event. I’ll just be testing waterproof mascara in advance!”
You can nominate an individual or group who have contributed time, energy or money to Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation for a 2019 Star Awards. Click here to check out the award categories and make your nominations. Voting is open until Friday 29th March.