Yesterday was the Leukaemia Care Patient and Carer Conference held at Worcester Rugby Club. Anyone who reads this blog will know how fond I am of Leukaemia Care and the event was tackled with the usual friendly, welcoming attitude we’ve come to expect from the family. Doctor Richard Taylor, independent member of Parliament for Wyre Forest between 2001 and 2010 and co-Leader of National Health Action Party, facilitated the day. As President of Leukaemia Care he was the perfect choice to ensure the day ran to time and bring order to discussions.

The day started with a presentation on ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukaemia) from Monica Else, a senior scientific officer from the Institute of Cancer Research. Monica’s husband, a patient,also attended and they provided a fantastic insight into how the science translates into real life. This was followed by the inspiring Lisa Nelson who, although enduring two transplants, brought optimism and courage to the stage. Tuney Thomas, a clinical nurse specialist from Worcestershire Royal Hospital spoke about chemotherapy and cut through the science and rumour with panache. Deborah Alsina, CEO of Bowel Cancer UK, spoke from a carer’s perspective as her husband has leukaemia. Their story of imatinib, dasatinib and babies struck a chord with me and it has been a long while since I have been captured by a speaker so much. I’m not sure anyone in the room wanted her to stop.

After a very tasty lunch break with the opportunity to catch up with old friends and new, we headed into breakout sessions on clinical trials and benefit advice. John Donohue, a charted clinical psychologist from Russells Hall Hospital, spoke in-depth about the psychological and emotional experiences of blood cancer patients. This was a difficult one, a very divisive subject and John handled questions and wide-ranging topics carefully and with care.

Then it was my turn. I thoroughly enjoy spending time, talking and sharing my experiences with an audience, it’s a very liberating and cathartic thing for me. This was also the first time, against advice, I spoke about sperm banking and fertility treatment. Without it I wouldn’t be a Dad; it is so important for the cancer patient. I’d like to think the delegates felt comfortable, well they laughed in all the right places, although I’m not sure they’ll ever hear a bell ringing the same way again. The day finished with a panel discussion, which I was part of. Lots of questioning and a fascinating discussion about the part Facebook plays in the care network. My good friend Nigel Deekes was in attendance and delivered some impromptu and informative words about the subject.

What struck me from the day was that Leukaemia Care really do care, they are a fantastic national charity who have great potential to make lives better. Controversially, perhaps, I did challenge them to bring more young people into the fold. I don’t think there was a delegate under the age of 25. Without young people, who are sadly the next generation of patients, I fear for any charity. The challenge was accepted with eager vigour as I expected. I can’t wait for the next conference.

I left brimming with new ideas, watch this space, and inspired by stories of courage and care. The Leukaemia Care team deserve a huge pat on the back for delivering a fantastic event and if anyone can tell me a better way to spend a Saturday I’d like to hear it.