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Blog: From Bench to Bedside via Kilimanjaro

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By Jeff Fish 

Just before Christmas I was lucky enough to be invited by Tenovus Cancer Care to visit the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute at Cardiff University to see first-hand some of the work undertaken by researchers that the charity have been funding.

The visit was the culmination of an unbelievable year that had started when somewhat out of character, I had spontaneously signed up to climb Kilimanjaro with Tenovus Cancer Care. In doing so I attempted to raise a significant sum of money to support the research and services funded by the charity. While some of you are no doubt familiar with the ‘Couch to 5K’ programme, think of my challenge as something akin to a ‘Sofa to Summit’ endeavour.

After a year of training I set off last October with my fellow trekkers, 11 of us in total, and conquered Kilimanjaro. It was truly a life changing experience for us all. The year had been filled by the challenge of fundraising and so to get the chance to see where some of that money may end up in the future was a great way to finish my experience.

So to the research lab visit itself. I’m not going to lie, the science hurt my brain. That said Professor Matt Smalley and his team were effervescent in their welcome and hospitality. The information they shared was informative, fascinating and absolutely inspiring even though it was clearly stretching my ‘O’ Level Biology way beyond its natural limit. 

The passion, dedication and drive of the team left me truly humbled. The fact that there are people who spend years, literally years, trying to making progress in the fight against cancer on an almost infinitesimal scale left me completely floored. I’m not sure if I hid the tears that readily formed in my aging eyes that well but they were tears of joy in humankind. 

As well as a comprehensive introduction to the work of the team we had the opportunity to tour the labs themselves, white coats and all. The scope and scale of the work underway was almost unfathomable and who knew how the humble fly was helping so much in the fight. I was also struck by just how complex cancer is. We’ve all heard that no two cancers are the same but I gained a real insight to the science behind this statement. 

Lab

My lasting memory of the day was a profound one liner from Prof. Smalley. To guard against the team ever becoming too far removed from the purpose of their work they apply a simple ethos to all their work; from Bench to Bedside. It summed up the purpose of all the work and the past year for me. To be honest I think this is what set the tears off, utterly inspiring.

So if you are reading this and thinking ‘Could I?’, then you’re more than half way there, yes you can. Just be brave and give it a go, that’s all I and my newly found lifelong friends did and in doing so raised £64,500!!

PS: On the same day of the research lab tour I was spontaneous again. I’ve signed up for the Snowdonia marathon for Tenovus Cancer Care in October this year, and guess what, I don’t run! So go on, go and do something different.

Jeff

If you’re feeling inspired, and you or someone you know is thinking about taking on a challenge in 2018, why not join us? Find out more at tenovuscancercare.org.uk/get-involved/challenge-events/