What do Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman and Khloe Kardashian have in common? They’ve all had skin cancer.
At Cause UK, we are helping tell the story of Jacqui Drake, 58 from Bradford, who has stage 4 skin cancer (melanoma). She had her first melanoma in her twenties, but after having a mole removed from her leg, it returned 17 years later.
She’s determined to raise awareness and change behaviours – starting in childhood.
To date, we placed a powerful first person piece in The Metro, featured Jacqui on the Independent Happy List 2021 as one of the top 50 inspirational people, positioned her on BBC Look North and BBC Radio, and secured a feature in the Yorkshire Post, as well as stories in the Telegraph and Argus and Yorkshire Evening Post.
Below, read more about Jacqui’s story…
“You wouldn’t send a child out into the snow without a coat, why would you send them out in the sun without adequate protection?” she said.
Since 2009, Jacqui had three operations to remove the cancer on her leg, but it then travelled in her blood to her lungs, and in 2015 her right lung had to be removed. She’s suffered colitis as a result of chemo, and pneumocystis which almost killed her.
Despite this, she is a force of positivity.
Jacqui has co-authored a children’s book (Adventures in the Sun with Edi, Hassan and Chen), to help change behaviours, of parents and children, to foster a healthy respect for the sun.
The book normalises hats, and sun cream alongside buckets and spades as three children go on an adventure under the sun.
“It’s just normalising the behaviour of wearing a hat, putting on sun cream, and so on, not scaring children, we don’t mention the ‘C’ word anywhere in the story.”
Just as we teach children to wash their hands after using the bathroom, or brush their teeth before bed, she feels sun protection should be on the agenda – not just for overseas beach holiday – but an everyday measure.
Melanoma diagnoses are increasing at epidemic rates. It is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and the 5th most common cancer in the UK.
Few people are aware that it can develop in the mouth, nails and eyes.
The choreographer and former dance teacher is remarkably busy, with her challenge, Jacqui’s Million, to raise £1m for the Leeds Cancer Centre (Leeds Hospitals Charity) – recently smashing the £250k mark. Profits from the children’s book will go to the cause. She’s even putting on a cabaret show to raise funds.
She’s a no-nonsense, straight-talking, energetic woman determined to use her terminal diagnosis to make a difference.
“When I was growing up, it was a time when people slathered themselves in oil to get a good tan. People know better now, but I still don’t think people’s behaviour in Britain has somehow caught up.”
Jacqui refers to how Australia has national public health awareness, thanks to the right education campaign. Their Slip! Slop! Slap! message has been proven to be effective with melanoma rates plummeting in the past 18 years. The country often offers free sun screen at its popular beaches.
Packing for holidays abroad, we all shop for sun screen, but do we wear it at home?
Jacqui warns too that it’s not just sunny days we need to worry about, but UV strength on cloudy days. We need to apply the right sun protection (UVA and UVB), with Factor 50 for children, and to apply throughout the day. A bottle should last two days.
Jacqui fears the high cost of some sun creams can be a barrier, especially for those already struggling financially; and wants to encourage mainstream retailers to promote low cost, effective sun protection, especially for children.
Her ambition is for her book to be widely available in schools, on airplanes, and in holiday parks.
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