Black Country cancer survivors win hearts in charity campaign

Two Black Country cancer survivors are starring in a Cancer Research UK campaign highlighting the power of legacy giving in saving lives.

Eleven-year-old Neve Francis, from Bilston, who has been successfully treated for leukaemia, features in a moving TV advert to support the awareness drive, called ‘Write an end to cancer’, and will also appear in posters in the charity’s shops this month.

Adrian Webb, aged 51, from Dudley, who has been successfully treated for skin cancer, features in a website video and in the poster campaign.

Neve Francis and parents Tracey and Ian Francis
Survivor – Neve Francis, who was treated for leukaemia

The pair are proof that right now more people are beating cancer than ever before, thanks to treatments Cancer Research UK has helped to develop.

Now, Adrian and Neve are encouraging people to leave a lasting gift for future generations by including a donation to the charity in their will.

Gifts left to Cancer Research UK in wills fund over a third of its pioneering work.

With around 85 people diagnosed with cancer every day in the region, the campaign aims to help accelerate research to ensure more people like Neve and Adrian survive.

Neve was just two years old when she was diagnosed with leukaemia on Christmas Day in 2007.

Her father Ian, said: “Our world came crashing down. We should have been at home with our children, getting ready for Christmas day, opening presents, and it was just a nightmare.

“There were lots of turning points up and down because she was in intensive care four times. She didn’t speak for a good couple of months because of how poorly she was.”

Neve was treated with chemotherapy which lasted for two years. She suffered repeated infections including e-coli, battled sepsis, and nearly died.

Then, right at the end of treatment, the brave youngster had a heartbreaking relapse and had to receive further treatment.

Neve and her family know from personal experience just how crucial new discoveries and breakthroughs are – as the youngster’s life was saved in 2010 by a groundbreaking new treatment, which Cancer Research UK helped to develop.

Neve with parents Ian and Tracey at their Bilston home
Neve with parents Ian and Tracey at their Bilston home

Mr Francis added: “The treatment she had was quite new, a stem cell transplant. She was so, so poorly, on several occasions we nearly lost her. Now she’s absolutely fantastic and started secondary school in September last year – she’s amazing.”

In the 1970s two-fifths of children with cancer survived. Today, more than four in five are cured, but there is more to do to bring forward the day when every child survives.

Adrian, father to 20-year-old Amelia and 23-year-old Joshua, was diagnosed with advanced skin cancer in 2012 after his wife Michelle noticed a mole on his back had changed colour.

He said: “The doctors said my wife probably saved my life because she insisted I went to the doctors. I simply wouldn’t have gone under my own steam.

“They removed the mole immediately and I remember sitting by myself in my office at work when I got a horrible call from the GP saying we’ve got some bad news – do you mind sitting down?

Road to recovery – Adrian at home with his son Joshua
Road to recovery – Adrian at home with his son Joshua

“In April 2013 the consultant said I might have as little as 12 months left.

“I blubbed like a two year old because I thought it was all over. The next two months were the lowest of my life.

“Once I’d stopped blubbing I said ‘OK, what options do I have?’ That’s when they said that there might be a clinical trial I could join.”

Mr Webb’s cancer had spread to his lungs, spleen, bowel, liver, back, and spine. But after treatment with trial drugs it had shrunk to a trace.

He added: “By leaving a gift in their will – no matter how big or small the donation – people in Dudley can give many more families like mine the incredible gift of hope.

"If it wasn’t for kind, generous people leaving gifts in their Will I wouldn’t be living my life now, or be able to be a grandfather in the future, or see my daughter get married.”

Mr Francis said: “We’re so grateful for the treatment that saved Neve’s life. Success stories like hers would not be possible without Cancer Research UK’s work, which in turn relies on everyone who donates much needed funds.

Legacy gifts can come in all shapes and sizes. As well as traditional sums of money, a range of diverse and unique things have been left to Cancer Research UK in Wills from book royalties to a stuffed parrot, a surfboard and a collection of 2,500 model buses and lorries.

Gifts help scientists to research drugs, discover what drives cancer to grow and find new ways to detect the disease at an early stage.

Last year, the charity spent over £9 million in the West Midlands on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.

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