As Sue Thompson steps down at Rosemere Cancer Foundation, she reveals the surprise of finding out her dad was to be her boss
When Sue applied to take charge of the newly-formed Rosemere Cancer Foundation in Preston 22 years ago, she didn’t tell anyone, especially her family.
In an ironic turn of events, her dad, Lytham GP Malcolm Hall, was also rather secretive in his work and it was only an informal question during her interview that she realise he would become her new boss.
As Sue prepares to leave her beloved role of chief officer, she recalls the day she was offered the job and what it was like to suddenly find out she would be working with her dad.
She says: “I didn’t tell anybody in my family I was going to work with Rosemere and unknown to me, my dad, who was the GP representative in North West oncology committee, was on the commissioning team of the cancer centre.
“When I got offered the job, one of the things I was asked was ‘do you think you could work with your father?’
“I was taken aback but it turned out he would be the first chairman. I had no idea of his involvement at the centre.
“It was a bit of a shock to us both but it was nice to start together and be involved in setting the charity up. It was really quite special.
“We worked together for eight years which was lovely. Nobody knew he was my father.
“Sadly he died in January, aged 86, before he knew I was retiring.”
Under Sue’s stewardship, Rosemere’s fund-raising income has grown to more than £1.2m annually.
Her unwavering ambition for Rosemere Cancer Foundation, based at Royal Preston Hospital, has seen the charity make significant contributions towards the establishment of local cancer units at hospitals in Chorley, Barrow-in-Furness, Kendal and Blackpool.
The 59-year-old, who is originally from Lytham St Annes, but now lives in South Cumbria, says: “I was brought in part time to be administrator and then manager of the charity. I helped to set the charity up and put the processes and guidelines in place. From there, things grew and grew and I became chief officer.
“In the first year, we raised £67,000, £30,000 of which was gifted by Preston Acute Hospital. This financial year we raised £1.4m, so you can see how much we have grown.
“Someone once said to me on the appointment panel, all I had to do was open the post. I don’t think in all my 22 years there I have had a day where that was all I did. But on my last day I will make that my only job.”
Sue has overseen the charity’s purchase of many pieces of innovative equipment, including the first flexible endobronchial ultrasound system in the UK for better diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer, image guided radiotherapy and most recently, the first Xi surgical robot in the North of England, all of which would have been beyond limited NHS resources at the time.
She has also worked to spearhead Rosemere Cancer Foundation’s investment in local cancer research projects, which have helped to bring the very latest treatment techniques to local patients before they are generally available through the NHS.
Sue adds: “There is much for them to be proud of, not least the success of the 20 Years Anniversary Appeal, which we launched in March 2017 to celebrate the opening of Rosemere Cancer Centre and the inception of Rosemere Cancer Foundation. It has raised a whopping £2.25m over the past two years.”
“I am very proud of some of the things we have been able to fund for the cancer centre and it units.
“We have helped to bring very innovative radiotherapy equipment to Preston for the first time and we brought the robot was is really ground-breaking and has had a big impact.
“We have invested funds to set up local cancer units so patients can be treated closer to home.
“I am also proud of the fact the ethos and criteria at the heart of Rosemere Cancer Foundation has not changed and I am sure that wull help the team continue to grow from strength to strength.”
Sue, a former chairman of the Institute of Fund-raising North West, has also donated countless hours to the charity in her own time over the years and encouraged her whole family, including her now grown up children Cassie and Ben, to get behind its work.
In 2004, Sue, her then 70-year-old mum Ann and six friends walked the Furness Way to raise funds.
Five years later in 2009, Sue undertook the Borneo Challenge, which involved climbing Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in South East Asia at 13,455ft, cycling across the Croker Mountain Range in 112 degree heat and 90 per cent humidity and white water rafting down the Padas River to raise money. The challenge has since been suspended as a charity challenge after being deemed too difficult and dangerous but Sue was undeterred and subsequently trekked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu as a fund-raiser in 2011 and was sponsored to walk from Barrow to Burnley – the length of Rosemere Cancer Centre’s catchment area - for the 20 Years’ Anniversary Appeal.
Although retiring, Sue intends to continue supporting Rosemere Cancer Foundation while spending more time with husband Ian and the rest of her family.
She adds: “I will miss everyone terribly but I know that under the chairmanship of Peter Mileham, supported by our fabulous staff team, I am leaving Rosemere in very safe hands and I look forward to watching from the side lines as they take Rosemere on to even greater things.
“It has been a roller coaster of a ride but without a doubt, the very best part of my job has been getting to know and work with so many fabulous supporters, without whom we would not be where we are today. It has been an enormous privilege.
“I would like to thank them all from the bottom of my heart for all their dedication, passion and sheer hard work on Rosemere’s behalf over the years.
“I am quite emotional about leaving but I am excited to be starting a new chapter in my life. There are lots of things I want to do. I am looking forward to doing more walks and seeing more of my family.”