26th October 2023

How late politician’s wife is taking the next steps in saving lives

View all Fundraising Stories

The widow of the late politician, the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, is embarking on a new fundraising challenge to mark the two-year anniversary of his death.

Cathy Brokenshire will be walking 13 miles from Seaford to Eastbourne on Thursday 26th October to raise funds and awareness for lung cancer in memory of her late husband.

James died of lung cancer in October 2021. At just 53 years old and a lifelong non-smoker, his diagnosis came as a huge shock to him, his family, friends and colleagues alike.

James was originally diagnosed in 2018 after he coughed up blood. His initial prognosis was good, and he underwent surgery at Guys and St Thomas’s Hospital in London. Sadly, the disease returned, and he passed away on 7th October 2021.

Since his death, Cathy has become a trustee and ambassador for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, the UK’s only lung cancer charity which supports everyone affected by the disease. His tribute page has raised over £160,000 over the past two years and Cathy is determined to keep the momentum going and uphold James’s legacy.

She said: “This year, we have taken the biggest step forward in improving outcomes for people with lung cancer. The announcement of national screening and gradual implementation will help more people get diagnosed far earlier when curative treatment is possible.

Our fear, however, is that there is now a presumption that lung cancer is fixed. Sadly, this is far from the case.

“Screening, as momentous as it is, will only save around 26% of those who will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime. What’s more, screening is currently only available to people with a smoking history. James, who was a strong advocate for targeted screening, would not have been eligible so we need to find more ways to diagnose and treatment everyone as early as possible. And for that, we need a long-term commitment to research.”

Lung cancer has been historically underfunded over the past decades, especially when considering it is the highest cause of cancer death, accounting for 13% of cancer research spending compared to 23% for breast cancer over the last 10 years.

Earlier this year, Cathy announcement the launch of the James Brokenshire Clinical Research Fellowship, a programme operated by Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation to fund the next generation of lung cancer researchers with the aim at improving the clinical outcomes for people at risk of lung cancer and for those living with the disease.

“Look at the significant improvement in long-term breast cancer survival rates,” continues Cathy. “It’s clear that sustained levels in research funding is key to changing outcomes.

I just want to play my part in giving people with lung cancer the same opportunity to live through the disease rather than die of it. James didn’t have that opportunity, but I know he would want others to. This is what drives me on.”

The walk takes place on the brink of lung cancer awareness month, a key date in Cathy and Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation’s diary.

This year, the UK’s leading lung cancer charity will launch its Be Unforgettable campaign, challenging disease misconceptions and promoting self-advocacy to speed up diagnosis, especially amongst those who don’t fit the so-called lung cancer profile.

“Lung cancer was never something we thought would affect our family,” concludes Cathy. “Whilst I cannot fault the speed in which James was initially diagnosed and treated, I know this is definitely not the case for many people, and in particular for non-smokers and younger people.

“This is what makes this awareness campaign so important; challenging those outdated and dangerous misconceptions which are inevitably taking our loved ones from us far too soon.”

The Be Unforgettable campaign launches on Wednesday 1st November. You can also make a donation via the tribute page: https://jamesbrokenshire.muchloved.com/