WHEN Sir John Ashworth first suggested building a state-of-theart cancer centre in 2012, it was clear money would be an issue.

It was a dream which could have easily remained just that but the former non-executive director of the hospital has always hoped for the best.

After successfully persuading Government to invest money in the hospital’s radiotherapy centre, it seemed a pity to him all cancer services could not be combined.

However, it seemed a mountain to climb.

In 2013 Sir John was instrumental in pushing for the Cancer Centre Campaign. As a non-executive director of the trust and chairman of the hospital’s charity, CoHoC, he fought for what he regarded as the ‘missing bit’ of the puzzle – a new chemotherapy and haematology suite and wellness centre, to be built alongside radiotherapy.

“That’s when I set up the Cancer Centre Campaign,” Sir John said. “The hospital had not done very much in the way of largescale fundraising, and I thought it was an opportunity to develop some competence in that area.”

Within a few months the hospital was in some difficulty with the Care Quality Commission.

In November 2013, it was placed in special measures following an investigation into cancer waiting times.

It was the worst possible time to start the campaign and so the launch was postponed until 2014.

Sir John said: “It made largescale fundraising difficult because people who give large sums of money do not invest in organisations that are seen to be failing.

“However, we concentrated on community fundraising and I thought it was important at the time as it did something to raise morale.”

By 2015 the campaign was starting to build momentum and was receiving lots of support from the community. This was important as it raised awareness of the grass roots support for the campaign and helped attract some larger donations.

However, due to his own health problems, Sir John handed the reins to current chairman of the campaign, Peter Wilson.

“I think he has had tremendous success,” Sir John said. “I have been extremely impressed. In my day we raised community awareness and small sums of money.

In Peter’s day we have received larger donations.”

Raising so much money was not the only challenge.

Due to the planned closure of Essex County Hospital, in 2014 the Mary Barron Suite was moved to a demountable building, at the opposite end to the newly opened Radiotherapy Centre. The distance and contrast could not have been greater.

Fortunately, Sir John persuaded the board to build extra foundations on the single story radiotherapy suite during its construction.

Sir John’s argument is a good cancer centre will provide patients with a good quality of life.

It is ensuring life after cancer has its own quality.

His message has been heard by thousands of fundraisers without whom the end would still seem so far away.

He said: “All throughout my life I have hoped for the best while planning for the worst.

“It’s a lot of money and we knew it was going to be an uphill task.

“But I did hope if we were able to demonstrate there was widespread community support for the idea, people who were in a position to make large donations would come forward.

“In a way which I could not have predicted, that has happened.”