One of our campaigners, Rob Codling, has written about his experience at our campaigning days in 2012 and 2013.
I knew I had to do something. After all, I had the bad fortune to be diagnosed with prostate cancer but the very good fortune to be living at a time when early diagnosis is possible (to those lucky enough to have diligent GPs or annual health checks anyway) and that the range of treatments are efficacious. I was lucky. So what could I do?
I had taken early retirement (nothing to do with prostate cancer) and with my wife had made the long distance journeys that we had always promised ourselves, converted two bathrooms, spent more time with friends and family etc. However I felt that I also had an obligation to ensure, in whatever small way I was able to, that prostate cancer sufferers and potential sufferers were granted their entitlement to better treatment and care.
How to do it? Well, I had heard of The Prostate Cancer Charity (now Prostate Cancer UK), so that seemed an obvious place to start. I have never been involved with charitable organisations before but their web site is a terrific source of information and I thought there might be something I could contribute. As it happened there was a "Day of Action" planned within the following couple of months which was intended to gain the support of Members of Parliament for the "Quality Care. Everywhere" project. That appealed to me as greater awareness is my personal hobby horse and the opportunity to take the message to our representatives in Parliament was compelling.
I was invited to participate in the event and the first task was to write to my MP inviting him to attend the Drop-in session at the House of Commons arranged for lunchtime on 14 March. There would be a training day in London on 13 March which would also be a chance to meet fellow campaigners. The first part did not go well. The response to my written approach to my local MP, who happens to be a Government Minister, gave faint hope that he would attend and so it proved. On the other hand the training day was excellent. Most of those attending were seasoned campaigners and had knowledge and experience which I did not. However, in meeting those people, women as well as men, I learned how much time and energy supporters actively devote to the work of the charity. They were also good company!
I really enjoyed the actual Day of Action. I had been to the House on a couple of previous occasions but it never fails to impress. We had a good number of MPs visit the Drop-in and I did manage to have a session with Graham Evans MP explaining the key messages and getting my photograph taken with him. I'm sure he treasures it!
So, this year when I received a note from Lizzie Flew, Supporter Campaigning Officer at Prostate Cancer UK, asking if I was up for this year's Day of Action, I was only too pleased to join in. The format was different and included workshops alongside the meetings with MPs. Another change, now as a seasoned campaigner, was that I was paired with another supporter, Robin Porter, to achieve a different kind of approach to the meetings. Our opinion afterwards was that it had definitely worked for us in our two MP interviews. We got on very well together personally and our different styles seemed complementary to good effect, borne out by the fact that we heard afterwards that Mark Field MP, one of our interviewees, had written to his CCG urging the adoption of the Quality Checklist.
Overall, I feel these Days of Action have been seen to be very worthwhile which proves to me that if commitment and enthusiasm count for anything, they were bound to be successful.