Professor Kalakonda, on the Floating Grace honoured the original founders of The Bloom Appeal in his very touching speech:
I am extremely grateful and honoured for the opportunity to address this select and
distinguished gathering. I was tasked to give you some background about The BlooM Appeal
established for the sole purpose of supporting patients, families, carers, and staff
impacted by blood cancers in our region.
There are at nearly 150 – 200 diverse types of blood cancers that include leukemias,
lymphomas, and myeloma. Among cancers, they are 5th most common and affect all age
groups and ethnicities. I suspect all of us, in our lives, have encountered friends or family
impacted in many ways.
It is exactly ten years ago, in 2012, we appreciated a real need to establish a dedicated
charity to provide much needed resources to help this vulnerable group in society. It was
borne out of previous efforts of Prof Cawley, who is in the audience, a group of well-wishers
including one of our Trustees – Frank Donovan, and a vibrant and active patient support
group to boost NHS and research activities as well as support patients and families.
It was started with the help of 4 dedicated staff (Alix, Gill, Gina and Alison), the support
group, and an ever-expanding army of volunteers. Being a complete novice to fundraising, it
took a couple of years to get the charity up and running and raise the first 50,000 pounds.
Having reached the milestone, we had a legal obligation to register the charity and assemble
a Trustee board which initially comprised of Elkan Abramson, Frank Donovan, the late
John Morgan QC and David Matthews, who some of you may remember as a long serving
president of the sporting fraternity in the Northwest, to formalise a constitution and
governance arrangements. I call them our own Fab four…!
The stated aims that now guide us are quite unique and differentiate Bloom from other more
established cancer charities. A third of the money raised is specifically targeted for patient
welfare. A third supports nationally and internationally recognised research efforts
mainly within the NHS and academic departments of haematology in Liverpool and
Merseyside, and the final third supports educational pursuits of patients/families and staff
within the NHS and University. Over the years the Trustee Board has expanded to
welcome Abi, Priya, Jane, Kehinde, Elaine, Robina, Mandy, Sophie and others. I can’t
thank them enough for their selfless and concerted efforts to ensure that the charity
continues to flourish. The family has expanded and now boasts Roger Philips as our
patron who unfortunately could not join us today as he recovers from recent surgery. They
are a volunteer group that believe in the cause and their tireless efforts and contributions
over the years has been truly and literally priceless. Someone once said that “There are
three kinds of people in the world: Those who watch things happen, those who ask,
‘what happened, and then those who make a difference. I can honestly say they clearly
belong to the last group and interactions with them has enriched my own life.
Over the last 10 years, the charity has relied on the generosity of countless volunteers.
They have literally climbed mountains, ran and cycled miles, swam lakes and rivers,
organised fundraising events, and raised money at birthdays, concerts, weddings and
sadly even funerals. Given its voluntary nature, the charity has managed to keep
administrative costs to under 5% of the overall pot which is a remarkable achievement.
I just want to highlight some very unique examples of how The Bloom appeal has helped
and is continuing to make a difference. A story I never tire of highlighting is that of a 19-year
single mother raising an infant with no family or societal support, one would say a very
Liverpudlian story, who needed a stem cell transplant to cure her leukemia. The procedure
requires prolonged in-patient admission and isolation. When help was not forthcoming from
any other source, The Bloom appeal stepped up to pay for childcare and nursery
arrangements while she was an in-patient. More recently, when the new Clatterbridge
Cancer Centre required 100,000 pounds for a dedicated Unit for Teenage and Young
Adults with Cancer, Bloom donated half the money. When it comes to the ‘living crisis’ that
many families now face, and is particularly hard-hitting for blood cancer patients, for over 10
years Bloom has been ahead of the curve and provided ‘Winter hardship allowance
vouchers’ for deserving patients and families as well hospital transport costs. There are
very few avenues that patients and families can turn to in days and years of need.
Liverpool boasts a vibrant research environment and fraternity that is nationally and
globally recognised as we strive to improve treatments. Blood cancer research has been at
the forefront of improving our understanding of cancers in general and finding modern
treatments. Our research relies on one of the largest national biobanks of patient samples,
that Liverpool hosts. This bioresource underpins research efforts and has benefited from
support of Bloom. We have recently partnered with Northwest cancer research, and
Catherine is in the audience, to fund and recruit a talented PhD student, who starts next
month to pursue a worthwhile project. Bloom has also funded vital equipment needed in the
NHS and University. Funding for attendance at educational events for patients and staff is an
increasing challenge due to dwindling NHS and University resources and support from
Bloom is proving vital. In 2017, Bloom hosted a unique Patient-Physician seminar to raise
awareness and knowledge of blood cancers.
I have come to realise that to try and cure patients afflicted by blood cancers is the easy
part. The real challenge is to not just cure but truly care for patients and families. As
healthcare personnel, and within hospital settings, we tend to only get a glimpse of the
impact of blood cancers on society. The impact the diagnosis has on lives before, during
and after treatments is beyond comprehension and far reaching.
For the mighty Mersey underneath every drop of water counts, and similarly every penny
that we can collect matters. We seek your help to raise funds and more importantly
awareness of the charity to support fellow Merseysiders, who are impacted by blood
cancers. Bloom is a relatively small charity that despite all the challenges, including
the pandemic, is “floating gracefully” but we wish to raise the mast and set sailing.
I am acutely aware that many of you already support many charitable and worthwhile causes
locally and nationally, but any help and advice is greatly and sincerely appreciated. If we are
to build on our success it is going to take a village, or even a county, to address the
unique challenges posed by blood cancers in the region. Ultimately, and from a personal
perspective, it is my sincere belief and ambition to try and leave what we inherited in a better
place. What the last two days has brought into focus is how “Life is all about legacy…”
Professor Nagesh Kalakonda MBBS, MRCP, FRCPath, PhD
Chair of Experimental Haematology
and Honorary Consultant, Haemato-oncology
University of Liverpool and
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre