UK leading £2m Cancer Facility Planned for the North East

The UK’s first cancer support, awareness and education centre is set to be built in the North East, in a £2m project which will reinforce the region’s reputation as being at the forefront of cancer care.

The facility, which will provide a range of services to people with cancer and their families and friends, is set to be developed on the site of the former Dunston Hill School, in Gateshead, within the next three years.

A fundraising drive is now underway by charity Fighting All Cancers Together (FACT) to raise the funds for the facility, which has been in the planning stage for several years.

The project will create the first community facility of its kind, offering support, practical help and social opportunities in a non-medical environment to anyone directly or indirectly affected by cancer.

Joanne Smith, chief executive and founder of FACT, is now leading the efforts to raise £2m to develop the centre. The first phase of fundraising, which hopes to raise £400,000, is targeting 200 individuals or businesses to each raise £2,000 the names of whom will form part of a ‘founders’ wall’ within the facility once constructed.

FACT was founded in 2008 after Joanne’s own battle with cancer, during which time she realised the need for a service to be created in the North East to support family and friends of people with cancer, as well as the patient themselves.

Since that time, the charity, which is based in Team Valley in Gateshead, has grown to employ 15 staff, and has a network of 130 volunteers. It also has three charity shops on Tyneside, and counts television personality and ‘agony aunt’ Denise Robertson among its patrons.

Legal work on the development is being overseen by Newcastle law firm Sintons, which has acted for FACT since its inception. Building firm Gentoo will be overseeing the construction.

Joanne said: “This centre will be the first of its kind in the UK and will play such an important role in the lives of people with cancer, as well as those close to them. It’s an awful statistic that 1 in 2 people in the North East are diagnosed with cancer if you think about how many people that translates into, and then how many loved ones will be affected as a consequence, you can see what a vital role a facility like ours can play.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer aged only 34, and on the day of my daughter’s second birthday. My son was only seven, and didn’t really understand why all of a sudden his mummy was bald and really ill. For four and a-half years I had to undergo treatment. I received such help and kindness from the amazing medical staff who treated me, as well as family and friends, but all the while I was conscious that there was no-one to support them. With my children being so young, it was difficult for them, but also difficult for myself and my family to know how best to support them.

“That is why I established FACT, which is the first charity of its kind in the North East. We provide support of all kinds to families and friends of people with cancer, as well as the patients themselves. Our new centre will take that to a whole new level, and I am so excited for the future, when we see our plans become reality with support from our very generous donors.”

Paul Liddle, Partner in the Real Estate department at Sintons, said: “Joanne is a truly inspirational woman who used her own battle with cancer to create FACT, a fantastic charity which is now playing a key role in the lives of so many people across the North East.

“This centre will be a very important addition to the North East’s existing outstanding facilities for cancer patients and their families, and will only add to its reputation as being at the forefront of cancer care. We are delighted to be part of this project.”

Allan Thompson, Managing Director of Gentoo Construction, said: “This is a really exciting project that will have such a dramatic impact on those who are affected by cancer in the North East.

“We have recently made our own contribution to the fundraising efforts and donated £340 that was raised by colleagues and partners at our Summer Drinks Party. We have a great relationship with FACT and are delighted to be the preferred contractor for the site.”

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