Wednesday 6th March 2019
The day after being announced as Chief Executive of Teenage Cancer Trust, I was in Birmingham with our expert nursing team from across the UK, learning more about their roles and challenges. It couldn't have been a better - or more fitting - start.
A year later, by pure diary serendipity, I've just marked by first anniversary by spending the day in Leeds with 80 of our Teenage Cancer Trust nurses and Youth Support Coordinators - a team whose everyday work is focused on making sure young people have the best treatment, care and support as they face cancer.
Spending time with these frontline teams, who embody the spirit of Teenage Cancer Trust, never fails to give me food for thought and greater breadth of perspective.
I'm a big fan of taking time to reflect, and anniversaries - or work-aversaries - are a chance to do just that, so I wanted to share a few thoughts on my first year as CEO.
My biggest highlight is always spending time with the young people we exist to serve. Whether it's on one of our 28 units, at support events like Find Your Sense of Tumour, or through our brilliant Youth Advisory Group, they constantly inspire and surprise me.
A fortnight ago, I spent a day with the Youth Advisory Group, getting their insight for our future strategy. They told me that they feel a strong affinity to Teenage Cancer Trust that lasts way beyond the end of treatment. They also feel passionately that every young person we support should have a consistently high-quality experience.
In March, I spent a week at the Teenage Cancer Gigs at the Royal Albert Hall where tens of thousands of our supporters were entertained by - among others - Kasabian, Def Leppard, Nile Rodgers & Chic, and, of course, the legend Roger Daltrey, to whom we owe so much.
Music is such a rich part of our heritage and I can't wait for next year when we celebrate our 20th year of shows at the Royal Albert Hall.
The intensity of the show week was swiftly followed by the whole charity pulling out all the stops as Virgin Money London Marathon official charity partner - a day I will never forget where Team Legend ran the streets of London and raised £1.6 million to make our work possible.
A constant highlight throughout the year is the strong and authentic heartbeat that pulses through the sector - I've met so many ego-free CEOs willing to share experience and perspective with me, whether through ACEVO, Cass Business School, direct approaches I've made to people who are doing fantastic work or the new Children and Young People's Cancer Charity Coalition, which is terrifically chaired by Kate Lee, CEO of CLIC Sargent.
It's not just the sector where I take such strength from the people around me. It's also from our own staff, volunteers and supporters who never fail to bring energy and perspective to my day.
In December, I flew to Australia to take part in the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Congress. We talked about everything from new treatments to exercise, fertility and grief. The highlight was hearing young people from the UK sharing their stories with pride and passion, leaving a room of nearly 500 people silent and thoughtful. 2020 sees Teenage Cancer Trust bring the Global Congress to the UK and planning has already begun!
2020 will be an incredible year in more ways than one. As well as the Global Congress and a host of anniversaries - including the 30th anniversary of our first unit opening - it will see us launch our bold, new five-year strategy, aligned to the NHS Long Term Plan. We will be spending the next few months consulting with our people, our partners and - above all - young people to see where we can make the greatest difference. In a changing world and challenging fundraising environment we need to use our resources wisely and laser in on impact.
There is so much great work happening, including developments in treatment and support, that it's an exciting time for everyone in the sector. But there is still much to do.
We won't stop until we can make sure that young people with cancer are never forgotten, never unheard, never ignored and that they have everything and everyone they need, so that they don't have to face cancer alone.
PS You can hear more of my views on the Cracking Charity Chat podcast I recorded with Beth Crackles to mark World Cancer Day!