Meeting members of the newly formed All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on blood cancer is a little like collecting Pokemon. Stick with me. You see, you have to be patient but when you meet them it’s always a deeply fulfilling experience; I’ve yet to find a Zubat (an ultimately useless Pokemon).
The APPG on blood cancer was formed last year. The group will look into the key issues affecting patients with blood cancers and is an acknowledgement that MPs understand that haematological cancers are very different to solid tumours – in the impact they have on patients as well as the need for different kinds of information, support and treatments to be available. Bloodwise will provide the secretariat to the group.
I’ve been fortunate to meet three of the founding officers in the past: Jim Shannon, DUP MP for Strangford, Henry Smith, Conservative MP for Crawley and Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham, Yardley. Today I met the final member of the founding group, Colleen Fletcher, the Labour MP for Coventry North East.
The founders that I’ve already met have all been touched, in some way, by blood cancer. They are all driven, passionate and keen to make a difference to the lives of blood cancer patients. Colleen Fletcher is no different and her experiences are incredibly raw. Her husband faced a gruelling battle with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in 2014 which resulted in a stem cell transplant; he is now free of leukaemia.
I was struck by her steely determination, her blunt honesty and her deep knowledge of blood cancer issues. We discussed many things including gardening therapy which she swears helped her husband get through his ordeal, the importance of early diagnosis, importance too of after-care, the inequality of cancer drugs including the issues with getting ponatinib to patients and the advent of patient power.
I’ve been mightily impressed by all four members of the group, Colleen is exceptional. She’s personable and has a voice that oozes confidence and strength; she’s a huge asset to patients and I trust her, absolutely, to represent us fairly and with passion. The group is a perfect storm and the members compliment each other perfectly. It’s good to be taken seriously and I believe that this APPG is a huge advance for blood cancer patients. I applaud all of those involved and offer my support in whatever action they take.
Thanks to Bloodwise for supporting the APPG and for all those involved in pushing the agenda for blood cancer patients.