A CHAMPION of cancer patient support is calling on Swindonians to dig deep in a bid to raise the £3m required to fund a new radiotherapy unit in the town.

Patients currently travel up to an hour-and-a-half each way to Churchill Hospital in Oxford to receive radiotherapy treatment.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust’s (OUHT) board last month backed the creation of the new unit, which would help ease demand and allow Swindon residents to receive treatment much closer to home.

The OUHT would pay up to £14.7m for the unit but £3m would be needed from fundraising across Swindon and Wiltshire.

Cancer survivor Alan Nix, who is one of the founders of self-help group ABC, which stands for Affected By Cancer, is now urging residents to donate generously to ensure no-one ever has to endure more than is strictly necessary while fighting a life-threatening illness.

The new department would make an enormous difference in the lives of patients and the parents of young children forced to undergo radiotherapy for days on end, according to Alan, who is no stranger to the physical and emotional impact the treatment too often has.

The 79-year-old became a frequent visitor to Oxford’s health services back in the early 1970s after his three-year-old son Simon was diagnosed with Wilms’ tumour, a growth the size of an orange on his kidney. He died after a year following unsuccessful courses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Simon would now be 55 years old.

And, 12 years ago, father-of-three Alan found himself travelling back to Oxford for radiotherapy after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“No-one can imagine the torment of submitting a child to the trauma of radiotherapy and chemotherapy,” said Alan, from Lawn. “Recently I had my own Oxford experience that included the nauseous, incontinent return home after treatment.

“I was so poorly in the end and so tired I rented accommodation and stayed there.”

He added: “Finally, our efforts to establish a Swindon-based facility are now rewarded with the prospect of the dreadful Oxford journey for cancer patients, parents and carers soon to be just unpleasant memories.”

The £3m needed is a relatively small price to pay for the well-being of hundreds of patients each year, Alan added.

“If people don’t help, nothing will get done,” he said. “Fortunately, the people of Swindon do not have history of ‘passing by on the other side’. Large businesses I am sure will be making a contribution.”

To find out more about ABC contact chairman Tony Pocock on 01793 432417.

Sam’s marathon effort in memory of daughter

DISTRICT Nurse Sam Richards lost her baby daughter to a viral infection and now she is running the London Marathon for Children with Cancer UK.

The 40-year-old from Stratton specialises in palliative care and works regularly with people who suffer with cancer and their families. She said: "In my role as a district nursing sister I specialise in palliative care. “I work with many families in the local community who have been affected by cancer.

“Sadly, my role doesn’t change the outcome but, through dignity, support and symptom management, I can make things easier for those involved.

“For me it is a privilege to be involved at such an intimate time of life. I have worked with some very brave people.”

Sam experienced her own grief through cancer after she lost her daughter, Siobhan, who would have celebrated her 18th birthday yesterday.

Sam, who also has two younger teenage daughters, said: “As a mother I have sadly been through my own personal experience of loss and this year would have signified the 18th birthday of my gorgeous daughter Siobhan, who sadly died through illness. “Losing a child is one of the worst things that can happen to you, and it is something I have a personal experience with having lost my child to cancer.

“It was probably the most painful experience I’ve ever been through.

“I wanted to run the Virgin London Marathon to raise as much money as possible for Children With Cancer, although my circumstances were different. “I just want to do what I can to help other people going through the same thing. “Hopefully the money I raise will help other families so no more children have to go through what we did.

“I am incredibly passionate in supporting others living and coping with children with cancer.”

Sam hopes to raise £1,000 for the charity, and she is well on her way after clocking up more than £400.

To prepare for the marathon in London, Sam has taken part in a number of other races in the area.

As part of her fundraising efforts, Sam is holding a charity gig to help raise funds for Children With Cancer UK.

The event will take place on Saturday at the Southgate Inn in Devizes and will feature a performance from local rock band Wipeout.

From 7.30pm everyone is welcome to come along to the free event and help her to raise the money, and there will also be a raffle in the evening with a top prize of a 30-minute flight in a private plane.

Children With Cancer UK is a national charity leading the fight against childhood cancer, which is the biggest child-killer disease in the UK with 3,600 children and young people diagnosed every year.

The charity funds life-saving research into the causes, prevention and treatment of childhood cancer. To show your support for Sam, donate through her Just Giving page at www.justgiving.com/ Sam-Richards1.