Jacqui Drake has stage 4 malignant melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer. She had her first melanoma at 30, but after having a mole removed from her leg, the cancer returned 17 years later.

Since her second diagnosis in 2009, 59-year-old Jacqui has been treated at Leeds Cancer Centre. Jacqui has had three operations to remove the cancer on her leg, but it then travelled in her blood to her lungs, and in 2015 her right lung had to be removed. She’s suffered colitis as a result of chemo, and pneumocystis and almost lost her life.

After going through this traumatic experience, Jacqui set up her fundraising appeal ‘Jacqui’s Million’ in 2016, with the ambition to raise £1 million for Leeds Hospitals Charity to support people living with cancer across our region.

Despite being clinically vulnerable, Jacqui continued to fundraise throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and thanks to her efforts has recently surpassed the £300,000 fundraising mark.

Jacqui said: “It's such an honour and privilege to help other cancer patients and to raise awareness too of this terrible disease. People's generosity and continued support of my appeal ensures that we can provide cancer patients with specialist equipment and patient comfort care while on treatment. This year we are also fundraising to facilitate an additional Bereavement Nurse at a cost of £53K, a role that it so needed"

Jacqui’s fundraising has already made a huge difference to thousands of patients treated at Leeds Cancer Centre each year. Thanks to her determination and positive attitude, Jacqui was able to fund £40,000 worth of projects during the pandemic. This included reclining chairs for patients undergoing chemotherapy and fund an LED skylight in the one of the treatment room to provide natural and distract patients from uncomfortable treatments, helping to relieve anxiety.

Donations to Jacqui’s Million have recently helped fund two pieces of equipment for the Radiotherapy Department to improve the hospital experience for cancer patients. A patient hoist has been installed, to help people with cancer who struggle with their mobility, and a bladder scanner, to help establish the volume of fluid patients have in their bladder, for preparation purposes during treatment.

Charlotte Martin, Therapeutic Radiographer at Leeds Cancer Centre said, “The patient hoist has definitely had an impact. We used to have to borrow a hoist from the MRI team which contributed to delays in both departments, with patients have to wait for much longer in beds for a hoist to come available. The wait time has decreased massively and we’re able to see to patients needs much quicker.”

Jacqui is continuing to raise awareness and funds as part of Skin Cancer Awareness Month this May. To help change behaviours in parents and children, Jacqui recently published her first children’s book - Adventures in the Sun with Edi, Hassan and Chen - in collaboration with fellow cancer patient, Sandra Hudson, to highlight the importance of sun protection.

The book normalises hats, and sun cream alongside buckets and spades as three children go on an adventure in the sun. Just as we teach children to wash their hands after using the bathroom, or brush their teeth before bed, she feels sun protection should be an everyday measure.

Jacqui’s ambition is for her book to be widely available in schools, on airplanes, and in holiday parks to help foster a healthier relationship with the sun from an early age.

To purchase a copy of Adventures in the Sun with Edi, Hassan and Chen, for £5 (plus £3 P&P), with all profits going to Jacqui’s Million, contact Jacqui directly on: [email protected]

Support Jacqui’s Million by making a donation online