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Life with Leukaemia: 'When all else fails, community prevails'



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Amy Gannon writes a fortnightly column for the Indie called Life with Leukaemia, documenting her Bishop's Stortford family's story of navigating the emotional, physical and financial challenges of living with blood cancer...

On Saturday (April 16), Joel and I truly understood what an unbelievable community we live in.

Michael Naylor, Gary Spicer and Lewis Atkinson, Joel’s brother, organised a charity golf day, auction and raffle at Great Hadham Country Club for 64 players, consisting of Joel’s family and friends.

From left, Mark Collins, Joe Robinson, Joel's brother Lewis Atkinson, Steve Cotton, Dan Maslin, Gary Spicer, Paul Wakelin and Michael Naylor
From left, Mark Collins, Joe Robinson, Joel's brother Lewis Atkinson, Steve Cotton, Dan Maslin, Gary Spicer, Paul Wakelin and Michael Naylor

Joel and I weren’t able to attend to express our gratitude as we have to avoid crowded events whilst he is on chemotherapy. Receiving photos from the day was wonderful and it was such a boost to know how many people are supporting our family from afar.

His mum, Jacqui Atkinson, and her sisters were there to show their gratitude and said there was a brilliant turnout and such an uplifting atmosphere. Lewis said: "It was a great day. Everyone's been so generous and helped us to raise an amazing amount of money."

Local businesses were fantastically supportive and donated overwhelmingly generous items for the raffle. I would like to say thank you on behalf of my and Joel’s families – we were completely overwhelmed at the support that we have in our community.

From left, Paul Smith, Simon Bishop, Amy's father Brian Gannon and Harold Cracknell
From left, Paul Smith, Simon Bishop, Amy's father Brian Gannon and Harold Cracknell

In total the event raised £6,300, with money from donation boxes on the day still to be counted. The amazing silent auction prize of an all-inclusive trip to Portugal for three nights with unlimited golf sold for an outstanding £2,000 to Kelvin Wheaton, owner of MK Scaffolding.

My brother, Ben Gannon, who also attended, said: "It was great to see how well loved Joel is. Over 60 people gave their Easter Saturday to join in and we were rewarded with a beautiful sunny day, great camaraderie shared with good friends."

A cancer diagnosis brings so much stress to a household. Obviously the emotional turmoil is a lot to live with and the physical struggles Joel has to endure whilst battling blood cancer are ever-present. But I was naïve before this fate befell us about the financial strain cancer or a debilitating illness puts on a household. Because life doesn’t stop, even when you want it to. Bills keep coming even when money stops flowing.

Joel’s been an electrician, working locally, since he was 16. He's one of the hardest-working men I've ever met as well as being a truly fantastic partner and dad. He was working seven-day weeks sometimes to make sure we had everything and more. Then two years ago he fell ill and everything changed.

Great Hadham golf day joint organiser Gary Spicer
Great Hadham golf day joint organiser Gary Spicer

Upon Joel's diagnosis I was dismissed from one of my part-time jobs – the decision of whether or not I worked through this time was taken away from me when my employer terminated my contract. Thankfully I had another job, at Jojo Maman Bébé in North Street – they have been, and continue to be, a fantastically supportive employer.

Joel worked for Paul Wakelin and Matt Roxby at Kingsway Electrical. They have gone above and beyond in their support. They were at the golf day – where Matt won the longest drive competition – and they kindly donated prizes to the raffle. We will be ever thankful for their support throughout this time.

When Joel and I were told this golf day was happening to help alleviate the financial stresses for us, we felt a rush of emotions. It's very strange knowing that others are raising money for you, it’s wonderful and it’s made a massive difference to my family, but I suppose we always saw ourselves as people who would be donating to these causes, not becoming the recipients of charitable donations.

Matt Roxby of Kingsway Electrical won the longest drive competition
Matt Roxby of Kingsway Electrical won the longest drive competition

Sometimes it is hard to believe this is our reality. The generosity and kindness shown by everyone who attended, donated and organised this day has shone a massive light of hope on our situation – a thousand thank-yous will never be enough to display our gratitude.

It is easy sometimes to feel cancer has robbed us of so much, but moments like this give us a positive to cling to, fuel our motivation to get through the bad days. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to this wonderful day.

Special thanks to all the businesses and individuals that donated auction and raffle prizes: Kingsway Electrical, MK Scaffolding, Golf Villa Rental, Midsummer House/Flitch of Bacon, World Masters Chef Society, Bishop's Stortford Football Club, Great Hadham Golf Club, Celtic Manor, Down Hall Country House Hotel, Aaron Fennell (The Crown, Elsenham), Steve Cotton Top Golf, Dave Rowe – Solutions Recruitment, Michael Naylor, Gary Spicer and Smart Motors – Jamie Crowley.

Joel and Amy in Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge
Joel and Amy in Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge

Helpful links

If you or someone you know has been affected financially by a cancer diagnosis, please contact Macmillan Cancer Support. While Joel lay in intensive care in hospital, I was running on no sleep with severe trauma. I began trying to sort out our finances. Macmillan were outstanding in helping me to navigate the benefits we would be entitled to and gave me advice on how to fill out the pile of paperwork that came through my door.

Contact Macmillan Cancer Support at www.macmillan.org.uk for advice on welfare rights, grants, discrimination at work, Equality Act 2010 and work and cancer. You can also contact Cancer Research UK for advice or help with the Disability Discrimination Act, Equality Act and cancer.

Amy Gannon, Joel Atkinson and their five-year-old daughter Isla
Amy Gannon, Joel Atkinson and their five-year-old daughter Isla

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