State of the sector: Chris Lewis reports

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THE world’s “most influential cancer blogger” Chris Lewis goes under the spotlight in the Pink Ribbon q & a. Let us know what you think!

1, Just please describe your cancer experience. 

In 2007 I was a self-employed Business Consultant, who had no worries in the world. I started feeling tired, they did some tests and I was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma, (an incurable blood cancer) stage 4. I required aggressive chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant from a donor. I was given 6 months to live! 

Because of the treatment, my health became very unreliable as I have constant rejection issues from my transplant, which are controlled by drugs. But things have settled down recently. Long term health issues are now a very big part of my life. Therefore I was unable to continue the work I was doing, and spend my life helping people affected by cancer. 

2, You are described as one of the most influential cancer bloggers in the world. What is the secret to your success?

Without doubt, the answer to that question is authenticity. My readers know that I am talking from my heart and experiencing the same things they are. There are many people talking about cancer these days particularly charities, but they have to speak in a certain way and readers know that these are not written from a personal perspective. It is also very important to engage with your audience and respond to all questions. 

3, Are charities in the UK – or elsewhere – failing to connect with people on the ground? If so, why?

There are two types of charity, one national and the other community. I believe that national charities are now too corporate, with the main goals being marketing and fundraising. My personal experience of working with many of these is that they are struggling to connect with the grass roots. It seems to be more about running the organisation than making a positive impact. Community charities are making a bigger impact in their own way, but lack the resources of the corporates. 

The answer of course is better collaboration, with the charity giants sharing resources with community charities, but of course that will never happen as it seems to be purely about chasing the cancer pound for them!

4, Do you think charities, including breast cancer charities, will fail as a result?

I’m not sure fail is the right word, but I do believe those charities who have now become to corporate will have to focus back to why they were first set up. Most have forgotten why they exist, which is to help others and not be self-serving! The public are no longer blind to what is happening, being bombarded with endless fundraising campaigns, and little evidence on what the money is spent on. The focus should be on impact, not amount of money raised. They must listen much more than they do now. All charities have their strengths and that is why there should be much more sharing in this sector. Most are still focussing only oon their brand and income. 

5, What can be done to rectify the situation, or does it not really matter, in the age of individual empowerment?

I have been doing this work for about seven years and always believed that large charities would want to share my work, but rarely does that happen. During that time I have started simPal a charity giving free mobiles and sim cards to people affected by cancer. They don’t even share that!! So I had to start my own website to publicise my own work, which is crazy really. I am seen as a competitor, not a person affected by cancer trying to help others. 

The Internet has made this sector a bit more equal, and there are many people like me, trying to get our voices heard. Everyone has their own choice where to give, and I believe things will only truly change when consumers change their giving habits. Being less influenced by expensive adverts and more interested about how the money is being spent/wasted/ 

6, How can we get the quickest possible cure for cancer, with or without charity involvement? 

Having worked for so long in the commercial world, I have always had to find solutions to problems in a timely fashion. I don’t see this at all in the cancer sector. Billions of pounds are pumped into it without much Government intervention. Charities have nobody to answer too, and politicians are mostly concerned with their own careers. Everyone busy making new ten year plans Where most will be either be retired or moved on by the time the results appear. 

Unless the public make more noise, I can’t see anything changing, as cancer is progressing much quicker than we are. All the people in key positions are paid to keep talking and big pharma gets more and more money pumped into it without achieving major results. 

I am not a conspiracy thinker, but the current situation suits so many people.

Pink Ribbon says: We would like to pick up on some of the issues Chris mentions in his q and a. Please let us know what you think by emailing charity@pinkribbon.co

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Pink Ribbon is the growing international network of doctors, researchers, charities and other campaigners, interested in bringing forward the date where breast cancer-related deaths are a thing of the past. It focuses on events and information provision, including website bulletins, conferences and awards (being planned for 2018). It is led by publisher Gerard Dugdill.

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