Our 2020 highlights
The last year has presented extraordinary challenges for people with bowel cancer. Screening, diagnostics and treatment have been disrupted, and many patients have been advised to shield for months.
We've worked tirelessly to push for the restoration and future protection of NHS cancer services, and to provide new information and services to support people with bowel cancer during these challenging times. Our coronavirus section on our website is full of up-to-date information to help you navigate through the confusing, and fast changing news on the pandemic.
As a charity, we've also been badly affected by the pandemic this year, sadly losing a third of our income and a quarter of our wonderful staff team. It was very sad to say goodbye to them and to lose their commitment and passion for our vital cause. But we're also incredibly lucky to have a wonderful community of supporters who've made sure that we've survived 2020 – thank you! We are in good heart, and we'll build back stronger next year.
Before we head into a new year, with all the hope that a vaccine brings, we'd like to share the moments that we're grateful for with our highlights from the year.
While we saw events cancelled and challenges postponed, thousands of people went above and beyond in their support for us. The determination and creativity of the bowel cancer community and the public really shone through, with fabulous fundraising ideas ranging from virtual challenges and quizzes, to head shaves and garden walks. Our flagship Walk Together event alone raised more than £150,000. We also held our first ever virtual Christmas Celebration, a fabulous event hosted by our patron, television presenter Sean Fletcher. Sean was joined by a host of celebrities and supporters. We're so grateful to everyone for all they do for us.
New advanced bowel cancer drug approved
We're thrilled that a new drug will be available on the NHS for people diagnosed with BRAFV600E mutant advanced bowel cancer living in England and Wales. We worked closely with clinicians to help inform the decision to introduce a new treatment (encorafenib and cetuximab), which offers new hope to those with limited treatment options.
We launched our new #NeverTooYoung report in August, which revealed that younger patients are still facing major barriers to early diagnosis, aren't being tested for genetic conditions, and are experiencing poor aftercare. More needs to be done and we're continuing to call for urgent policy changes, raising awareness and advocating on behalf of younger people with this disease.
We've also teamed up with the Never Too Young project group, made up of younger bowel cancer patients who will use their voice to strengthen and support the campaign.
Getting together online
This year saw our first ever virtual Chat Together events, online support groups for people affected by bowel cancer. Taking place over Zoom, our first groups got the chance to share their experiences in a friendly and supportive environment over several weeks and really got to know each other. We're launching more Chat Together events next year, so keep an eye on our website if you'd like to join.
We also held an online Listen Together event in Wales, where we heard from our community about their personal experiences and treatment, and views on how services should be shaped in Wales in the future.
Launch of our new online shop
We were thrilled to partner with Bath-based agency blubolt, who generously designed our new online shop for free, to help us raise funds for our lifesaving work. Our new site sells a range of products, including sportswear, mugs, hoodies and a brand new collection, designed by luxury fashion designer Nigel Hall.
We also partnered with Men's Shed Cymru, who made wooden 'comfort birds' to raise money to help support people with bowel cancer.
DPD testing in Wales
Wales announced plans to routinely screen all cancer patients being treated with certain types of chemotherapy, known as DPD testing, to identify their risk of experiencing severe side effects. This was fantastic news and something we campaigned hard for. We now want to see other nations follow in their footsteps.
Two new patrons
We welcomed two new patrons earlier this year, professional rugby player Joe Gray and Rotherham United footballer Angus MacDonald. Joe's dad, Paul, sadly died of bowel cancer in March this year and Angus was diagnosed with bowel cancer in August 2019, aged 26. Joe and Angus hit the ground running in their support for us and both completed virtual challenges this year raising thousands of pounds. We're hugely grateful to all of our Patrons and Ambassadors for their ongoing support.
Camera the size of a pill that could help detect bowel cancer
Scotland launched a new procedure using tiny cameras inside a pill to help detect bowel cancer. The programme will be rolled out across all health boards in Scotland, and has the potential to make a huge difference for people with bowel cancer symptoms who are waiting for a colonoscopy. It can be used to rule out bowel cancer, reducing the increasing pressure on colonoscopy services.
Advanced bowel cancer information
We created a new hub to bring together information about advanced bowel cancer in one place, and launched a new leaflet focusing on treating people with advanced stage disease.
Bowel Cancer Awareness Month
April 2020 saw a very different Bowel Cancer Awareness Month to the one we'd planned and hoped for, but there were still some great moments and the support we received was amazing. From finding new ways to fundraise virtually to remembering those we've lost at our Remember Together event, the bowel cancer community and the public helped us make the most of this year's Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.
Videocast with George Alagiah
George Alagiah hosted our 'In conversation with George Alagiah' videocast, where he was joined by Beth Purvis, who lives with advanced bowel cancer, clinician Richard Adams, and our CEO Genevieve Edwards. They discussed a wide range of subjects, including the impact of coronavirus on treatment and the impact of a cancer diagnosis in families.
One million missed opportunities
We launched our 'million missed opportunities' campaign in June, highlighting how a pause in bowel cancer screening had led to more than a million screening invitations not being sent out, and the impact this would have on diagnosing the disease.
This year has been incredibly tough for us as a charity and we've had to overcome a drastic drop in income as well as say goodbye to some incredible staff members. We know it's been a difficult year for everybody, so we'd like to take this moment to thank each and every one of you for standing alongside us throughout trying times. You're at the heart of everything we do and we hope the new year brings peace, opportunities and happiness to you all.
As ever, there's still so much more to do. For those who are no longer with us, those currently going through treatment, and everyone else affected by bowel cancer, we will continue to do all we can to achieve a future where nobody dies of the disease.
Thank you for everything.
Some of wonderful Walk Together supporters
A virtual Chat Together in full swing
One of many products available on our online shop
Two new patrons: Angus MacDonald and Joe Gray
New publication: treating advanced bowel cancer
BBC's George Alagiah hosts our videocast
Thank you for your support