Richmond sisters Jemma and Kerry Ferguson are backing a campaign led by Macmillan Cancer Support calling on the Government to invest more money into cancer nursing.
As teenagers they suffered the tragedy of losing their mum, Mary Ferguson, to breast cancer in 1998 aged only 37.
Their dad, Paul ‘Fergy’ Ferguson, was a full time firefighter in Richmond.
He became a widow in his 30s and suddenly found himself navigating grief and anxiety of loss, as well as a demanding job in the emergency services and raising three children.
Jemma said: “The impact of that loss for all of us was profound and life changing but with the support of our pa and our grandparents and aunties we have been able to live a wonderful life non the less.”
Sadly, Paul passed away in 2020 from a rare type of cancer.
He was supported by Macmillan nurses in his final weeks of life.
Kerry said: “The Macmillan nurses gave dad practical support, visits and things to think about.
“They organised equipment such as an adjustable bed, chair and a stair lift, they came to the house to help give him his medication and to help him with practical things like his finances as well as being available on the phone for any questions or support.
“This support gave dad a sense of purpose and focus in his darkest times. The nurses are amazing and the work they do is unbelievable and genuinely benefits patients even in the last stages of their lives.
“Everyone living with cancer should have access to this kind of expert personalised support.”
Macmillan Cancer Support report that there is a chronic short-staffing crisis in the NHS, made worse by the pandemic.
Cancer nurses deliver vital care and support for people living with cancer, Macmillan estimate that England needs 3,371 more cancer nurses by 2030 and they’re calling on the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to commit cash to the cancer workforce to make sure every person living with cancer get the vital care they need and deserve.
Macmillan is warning of a crisis looming in Rishi Sunak’s own consistency in Richmond, the area is part of a Cancer Alliance (Humber, Coast and Vale) with the highest percentage of specialist cancer nurses aged 50 or over in England (54%).
As many of these specialists are nearing retirement age, the charity warn that the government are not doing enough to ensure that their expertise is replaced, adding yet more pressure onto an already overstretched workforce.
Jemma and Kerry joined a march organised by Macmillan Cancer Support on Tuesday to deliver a message to politicians that 4,000 more cancer nurses are needed across England by 2030.
Thousands of campaigners have decorated and sent papercraft nurses with messages of support for the charity’s campaign, these were turned into an enormous paperchain, which was hand delivered to the Treasury on Tuesday,
Jemma continued: “We want to share our story in the hope that it will make real change happen.
“Our message to Rishi Sunak is please listen to Macmillan as the experts in the field of cancer care and action their recommendations to ensure the 4000 nurses so desperately needed are in place by 2030.
“We travelled to Westminster because many people are sitting at home right now dealing with cancer and the impact on their lives, it really can happen to anyone.
“Macmillan are in people’s homes right now dealing with cancer patients during what can be the darkest and most challenging days of their lives.
“For us, this is personal. It’s a chance to create a positive legacy for our mum Mary and dad Paul and for all those people who have lost loved ones to this relentless disease.
“We know our experiences are far from unique and there are stories like ours all over the U.K.”
Anyone diagnosed with cancer can contact the Macmillan Support Line seven days a week on 0808 808 00 00 or visit the Macmillan website (www.macmillan.org.uk)