North East Connected

Cramlington teenager and Newcastle surgeon star in new cancer research UK TV advert

A TEENAGER’S cancer treatment and the work of a cancer surgeon in Newcastle is being brought to our screens in an emotional TV advert by the same team behind 24 Hours in A&E for Cancer Research UK this Christmas.

Dan Mattison, 16, from Cramlington, who is being treated at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle, and Dr Rachel O’Donnell, 35, a researcher at Newcastle University, and cancer surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead, appear in a new series of films for the charity’s ‘Right Now’ campaign, which launch on Boxing Day (26 December) and will be on air during Christmas and New Year.

Viewers will see the teenager alongside his mum Angela, as he has a lumbar puncture procedure as part of his treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia* (ALL) and Dr O’Donnell as she studies cancer cells through a microscope and explains the need for research to help beat the disease.

Cancer Research UK’s powerful and emotive ‘Right Now’ campaign features TV, poster and radio adverts and aims to show the reality for people like Dan diagnosed with cancer, their friends and family.

It features a series of moving films – showing real patients in real-life moments – which call on supporters to take action in the fight against cancer.

The campaign was filmed at the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University. It captures documentary-style footage of doctors, nurses, scientists, researchers, cancer patients and their loved ones to highlight the everyday reality of treatment.

Filming for the other films in the campaign also took place at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

Dan and Dr O’Donnell’s film will be on air until 22 January 2017 and Dan will also appear in a series of posters to be displayed on roadside billboards in Newcastle and in hundreds of locations across the UK from 2-15 January 2017.

Cancer Research UK hopes the ‘Right Now’ campaign will inspire people across the North East to get involved in whatever way they can, to help fund the charity’s life-saving work.

Dan, knows from personal experience just how crucial new discoveries and breakthroughs that researchers like Dr O’Donnell are making are to help people like him survive.

Dan was diagnosed with cancer in September 2014 when he was 14 and had just started studying for his GCSEs at Cramlington Learning Village.

His mum Angela, 46, who works as a Project Administrator at Newcastle University, said: “Dan had always been very sporty and a keen footballer, but at the start of Year 10 he couldn’t keep up in matches. We realised something was really wrong when he collapsed with exhaustion after a run.”

His parents took him to the GP who sent him for blood tests and they got a call later that night to tell them to take him immediately to hospital as it looked like he had leukaemia.

Angela said: “We were so shocked and took him as instructed to hospital straight away, and at 2am the next morning the results confirmed that he had leukaemia and would need to start treatment straight away.”

Dan, who had played football for Sunderland Academy, began a course of intensive chemotherapy which caused a number of side effects and made him very poorly.

At one point Dan was hospitalised for 16 days, which meant the family were split up for Christmas with his younger sister Evie, now 11, having to go spend the holiday with grandparents.

Despite missing nearly all of Year 10 Dan was able to catch-up and in June 2016 he took his GCSEs and surprised everyone by getting seven A*s and one A.

Angela said: “He did incredibly well and we are so proud of his achievements. Throughout his treatment Dan has never complained. He’s so strong, determined and resilient. He’s been a real inspiration to us all. Because of his experience, he now wants to be a doctor.”
During his treatment Dan has been able to share his experience with two other footballers who were going through their own cancer diagnosis.
In August 2015 the family were invited to Aston Villa to meet Stiliyan Petrov, who was diagnosed with the same cancer as Dan, and have lunch with the players after a training session.
Petrov talked to Dan about his own treatment and offered advice about how he coped and tips about getting back to normal activity.
Also, as a massive Newcastle United fan Dan also got to meet Jonas Gutierrez, who was diagnosed and successfully treated for testicular cancer.

Speaking about his future Dan said: “Originally I hadn’t wanted to be a doctor but  spending so much time in hospital and having seen the quality of care provided has inspired me to go into medicine, so I can be part of a team helping to change people’s lives. The different areas of medicine also seem to be really varied and interesting. My experience has made me realise that a lot of things people worry about aren’t that important and it’s made me less worried about things I can’t change.

“I started my final phase of treatment in May 2015 and once a month I have chemotherapy into my port and steroids. On top of that I have daily and weekly chemotherapy tablets and four times a year a lumbar puncture, which is what was filmed for the advert.

“My treatment will end in January 2018 two weeks before my 18th birthday and we’re looking forward to a big party. I want to give something back and help others who are facing their own cancer journey that’s why I’m happy to be part of this Right Now campaign and hope people support the work of Cancer Research UK and take action to help fund vital research.”


Dr Rachel O’Donnell

In the advert Daniel features alongside Dr Rachel O’Donnell who knows only too well the research that is going on behind the scenes to improve outcomes for people diagnosed with cancer.

Dr O’Donnell, who is an Academic Clinical Lecturer and Honorary Subspecialty Registrar and Training Fellow at Newcastle University, graduated from medical school in 2005 and since then has dedicated her working life to finding out more about cancer, in particular ovarian cancer from her base at the Northern Gynaecological Oncology Centre at the QE Hospital.

Dr O’Donnell, who lives with husband James and daughter Emilia, 2, in Gosforth said: “Cancer is such a challenging time in anyone’s life and I feel so privileged to be able to help people with their care and treatment.

“It’s easy to think research just happens in a lab, but it’s much more than that. It’s all about caring for someone and striving for the best for each person that you meet. Without research everything else is standing still.

“I’m driven to do better next time and am always looking to see how we can do more. I’m so pleased to be part of the Right Now campaign. Just like I say in the film, no one person can cure cancer by themselves. It’s about us all- doctors, researchers, the public- coming together to help people like Daniel beat the disease.”

Lisa Millett, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the North East, said: “We’re so grateful to Dan and his family for sharing their story and to Dr O’Donnell for bringing the research to life in the filming.

“We’d also like to thank staff at the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University. Our campaign aims to shine a light on the men, women and children facing cancer every day as well as the doctors, specialists, nurses and support staff who provide invaluable treatment, care and support.

“Cancer Research UK’s doctors, nurses and scientists are working hard to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease. We hope these films will inspire people to take action, right now, and play their part in helping to beat cancer sooner.

“One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their lives, but the good news is more people are surviving the disease now than ever before. Survival has doubled in the last 40 years in the UK. But to help accelerate this progress, Cancer Research UK needs everyone to act right now.”


Hospital quote

Sheila Alexander, Directorate Manager for the Northern Centre for Cancer Care said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the Cancer Research UK team to Newcastle. The team were incredibly professional and considerate when working with all our patients, and went out of their way to ensure that filming was as unobtrusive as possible.

“The Cancer Research UK team have done a fantastic job in capturing people’s stories in a way that is both highly emotive and sensitive. The campaign gives the audience a window into the lives of those affected by cancer in hospitals across the UK, reiterating the key message that cancer is happening, right now.”


Newcastle University quote

Professor Josef Vormoor, Director of the Northern Institute for Cancer Research, said: “It is great that the Northern Institute for Cancer Research at Newcastle University was chosen to be at the forefront of the Cancer Research UK campaign ‘Right Now’.

“All our staff are committed and passionate about improving the outcomes for patients with cancer. The ‘Right Now’ films are very powerful and show the world-class research that takes place at Newcastle University as we help to deliver the best care possible for patients and their families.”

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