Gary Strachan – "Write" Said Fred

Off The Wall Essays From Deep Within A Capricious Mind

Cancer Candour

In a further attempt to widen my cultural horizons, this morning I ventured to West Yorkshire town of Holmfirth deep in the bosom of Pennine Hills. This sojourn, to an area dubbed Last of the Summer Wine*** country, to attend this week’s Holmfirth Artweek festival.

*** – The BBC TV sitcom showing the antics of eccentric Yorkshire folk in their dotage.

This artwork exhibition, celebrating the creative output of local painters, sculptors and needlework aficionados, held in the town’s civic hall, along with displays at numerous satellite sites on the borough’s periphery.

My awareness of the event manifesting from recent interactions with MacMillan Cancer Support (MCS) contacts – The organisation a benefactor of a proportion of the money raised from the event taking place between Sunday 7th July – Saturday 13th July.

During those recent interactions, the representatives of MacMillan’s fundraising and communications team sought my input into how the charitable institution’s support services have touched on my family’s cancer journey. Enlightening cancer sufferers and their brood’s to the avenues of assistance at their disposal. Services made available by the organisation to try smooth fraught times during the post-diagnosis rollercoaster ride.

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My input of this awareness a very small part of the Holmfirth Artweek’s launch, but one that hopefully can go someway towards achieving comms teams goals. MCS’s PR branch also endeavouring to reach out to males impacted on this oft challenging odyssey.

Fellas ordinarily more reticent at discussing their emotions when confronted with this faceless nemesis. Many deeming it a sign of weakness to highlight signs of not coping with this odious indiscriminate foe. Consequently, not embracing the help available from MacMillan, even if they do know what’s available – Instead suffering in silence. From my experience, a flawed strategy with absolutely no positive benefits to family or sufferer.

Personally, I find candour to be a far more beneficial approach than ‘bottling up’ concerns, angst or lack of understanding relating to my brood’s circumstances. Some may think it’s classless to air your ‘dirty laundry’ in this way, but I’m not advocating you share everything. I’m merely positing I believe there are things that can be shared, candour which can be cathartic to both sharer and sharee.

There are elements of my clan’s situation I’m not comfortable with sharing and don’t. In this narrative, I’m in no way attempting to preach how individuals (particularly men) in my position should deal with the hopeless cards they’ve been dealt.

How sufferer/carers cope isn’t an exact science, we all react differently to being blindsided by the cancer train and it’s subsequent fallout. However, if me relaying what I’ve found beneficial as a coping strategy during this capricious voyage helps just one person then my input’s been a worthwhile exercise.

To conclude today’s blog, here’s the draft case study drawn up by the MacMillan communications team as part of Holmfirth Artweek. Locutions aimed at raising the profile of services available to cancer sufferers and their brood.

Incidentally, the exhibition of local art is well worth a visit:-

Arts supporting vital cancer services 

Gary Strachan’s world was turned upside down when his wife, Karen, was diagnosed with incurable breast cancer in 2010. 

Gary, 56, who lives in Colton, Leeds credits the support of Macmillan Cancer Support in helping him and Karen make sense of the devastating diagnosis, saying:  

“Macmillan were there during the initial minutes and hours after being advised of Karen’s cancer diagnosis. 

“Karen’s Macmillan nurse provided a wealth of advice, comfort and support when we’d just been completely blindsided with the terrible news of the scale of her illness.

“Initially it hit me like a train and Macmillan offered support at this horrible time.  

“I’d hate to think how we’d have coped without Macmillan.”

Gary was supported with counselling and carer respite activities at the Sir Robert Ogden Centre in Leeds. He now regularly volunteers for the charity and will be joining 1000’s of visitors in support of Holmfirth Art Week, which donates a proportion of all their profits to Macmillan. Gary explains: 

“Holmfirth Art Week stands apart because of their continued support of Macmillan. 

“Everyone involved, the artists and volunteers, are choosing to give something back and that puts a smile on my face.” 

For the past 52 years the town of Holmfirth has transformed for one week of the year to showcase local and national artists’ work. What makes this different is that a proportion of the takings are donated to Macmillan Cancer Support. 

Running this year from 7 to 13 July Holmefirth Artweek is one of the UK’s largest and longest running annual open art exhibitions.  

The mammouth efforts of the Holmefirth Artweek Committee are a year round commitment, they are hoping to be rewarded this year by topping the £1 million mark for Macmillan. 

A member of the organising committee explaining: 

“We’ve supported Macmillan Cancer Support for over 40 years.  

“Cancer is an issue that no one can escape, everyone has been touched by the disease. 

“Macmillan does fabulous work across Yorkshire in supporting people like Gary and Karen through the fog of a cancer diagnosis. 

“We’re enormously proud of how the event has grown, topping £1 million for this fantastic charity would be the icing on the cake.” 

Stacey Rhodes is the Macmillan Fundraising Manager for the area praised the Art Week Committee: 

“Year after year I’m amazed and humbled by the dedication of the Art Week Committee, 

“Through the generosity of everyone involved in Art Week we’re able to reach more people diagnosed with cancer.  

“Everyone at Macmillan wants to say a massive thank you.” 

The main exhibition, held in Holmfirth Civic Hall, features over 400 exhibitors and over 2,000 artworks and will be open from 10am – 9pm Mon-Fri and until 5pm on Saturday and Sunday.

This year sees the highest number of fringe venues that have ever participated

in Artweek, with over 40 venues spread far and wide. There are venues not only in Holmfirth and the Holme valley, but also in Marsden and Slaithwaite, and for the first time ever, over the Pennines in Uppermill and Greenfield.

For more information go to http://www.holmfirthartweek.org.uk or follow Artweek on Facebook. 

To get help from Macmillan visit macmillan.org.uk or call the support line on 0800 808 0000. 

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