Well number one has to be people: I have met so many extraordinary and lovely people on this journey. Before we even started to run any services, warm, resourceful, passionate and caring people started to get on board to help make Yes to Life into a reality. And that has only accelerated over the years, as more and more fantastic people are working in the charity and volunteering their skills, time and passion in an enormous variety of ways.
2. And number two - people: Once we had the bare bones of a service in place, we started interacting with, and supporting the most courageous, determined, creative people who came to us for help. It is an absolute privilege to be able to share a little part of their extraordinary lives - the immense challenges, the joys, the tears, the losses and the triumphs.
3. Number three - yes, people: The people who have seen what we’ve been trying to do, understood why we’re trying to do it, and have stood by us and supported us through thick and thin, helping us believe that we’re not completely nuts!
4. Number four is…er…people: Another privilege has been to get to know some of the astounding practitioners who have chosen to enter the contentious field of Integrative Medicine for cancer. Whilst often portrayed by the media or internet trolls as ‘ripping off dying cancer patients’ my personal experience is of a group of courageously single minded experts who are regularly prepared to go the extra (ten) miles out of care and love for their clients, whilst simultaneously keeping their practice afloat in a very aggressive medical climate. These people are gold dust for those with cancer.
5. Our Helpline: I’m really proud of our Helpline service. All the people who take the calls for us are passionate, caring people who have personal experience with cancer and have been highly trained for our service. I know from my own experience what people are looking for from a helpline like this, and the feedback we get reassures me that we’re hitting the mark consistently in offering a warm, responsive, efficient service.
Our events: I’m also proud of our programme of events. It is particularly rewarding for me to be able to share my passion for Integrative Medicine publicly, to showcase and interact with international expert speakers, and to meet the people who come to our events, many of whom we know by name from our Helpline service, face to face.
7. Our web service: 10 years ago, I dreamed up the website I would have wanted to find when I was desperately looking for help for my lovely daughter Bryony. It’s been a long haul, but today it’s pretty much there… plus a lot of other things we dreamed up on the way. Fulfilling a dream like this is extraordinarily rewarding.
8. BSIO - another dream: Some 3 or so years ago I invited our Chief Medical Advisor, Dr Damien Downing, for a cuppa to talk over the notion of a society to enable the beginnings of a movement in Britain for Integrative Medicine for cancer. Damien thought the idea had legs and so the British Society for integrative Oncology was born. Fast forward to today, and the society is taking off in the most inspiring way. This is so good to see!
9. Being stretched: Yes to Life has consistently asked more of me, continually requiring me to step out of my comfort zone if the organisation is to be as successful as I want it to be. This is both exhilarating and deeply satisfying. My latest calling is as host of the Yes to Life Show on UK Health Radio which I am loving!
10. Making sense out of tragedy: Probably the greatest thing for me personally is that by choosing to stay at ‘the coal face’ of the cancer crisis after losing my beautiful daughter, I’ve been able to put the experience of what was undoubtedly the blackest point in my life to some use, putting in place some of the help we really needed, but that was so hard to come by. This has, in the most unexpected and curious way, ‘made sense’ of my experience. So many astonishingly wonderful things have come out of Bryony’s death, that, even though I miss her as much as ever, I have now completely lost sight of whether losing her was good or bad. It’s simply what happened.