The fight against leukaemia is a long and difficult one.
For some, it is also unbearably lonely.
That is where Blackpool’s leukaemia support group steps in, offering a helping hand to cancer patients and their families struggling to come to terms with their illness and the devastating effects it can have.
Jeremy Baugh, 54, set up the leukaemia support group at Blackpool Victoria Hospital in 2013 with his friend, Lee Davis-Conchie.
But while dad-of-three Jeremy went on to make a full recovery, Lee died later that year from complications arising from acute myeloid leukaemia, a rare type of cancer. He was 45 years old.
Jeremy, who continues to organise the support group with the help of volunteer Lesley Ronson, said: “We have lost many people from the group over the past five years.
“A number of them had children and wives and friends who are deeply upset by what has happened, so any support we can provide is a good thing.
“The thing about cancer is it’s not just about the patient. It’s about the family too.
“They don’t tell you how to deal with a depressed family member or what to do when your kids are devastated, seeing you in bed with the effects of chemotherapy. That’s what the group is for.
“Lee was a unique character. He did tai chi to a high level and he was the one who got us meditation sessions at the group, which we still do today.”
Jeremy was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in August 2012 after complaining to his doctor of feeling drained.
Tiredness is one of the telltale symptoms of leukaemia, along with joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, abdomen pain, and bleeding and bruising easily.
Survival rate in the UK has more than quadrupled in the last 40 years, according to Cancer Research, with 46 per cent of leukaemia patients going on to live for 10 years or more.
Still, 4,712 people in the UK lost their lives to the disease in 2016.
Jeremy said: “I had four bouts of chemotherapy over a year, and this was happily well-received, and I have been in remission ever since.
“With the way cancer is, it’s not just about how you cope with the treatment – it’s how you keep living with it, trying to be normal while dealing with all the trauma that is associated with the illness you have.
“One of the problems is there aren’t enough support groups available.
“Blackpool has one of the very few support groups in the county.
“We are a Blackpool and Fylde coast group, but we see people fromall over Lancashire.
“It provides a warm and welcoming meeting place for people to share their thoughts and their problems with people who have been in a similar position.”
The support group will celebrate its birthday at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on Wednesday at 7pm, and a donation will be made to the hospital’s haematology unit.
Jeremy said: “We have had over the past five years a large number of people. It has got to be hundreds.
“Most of us have been treated on that ward at some point and we are very grateful for the care we have received over the years.”
The leukaemia support group, led by Jeremy Baugh and Lee Davis-Conchie, meets at the Macmillan Unit at Blackpool Vic at 7pm on the third Wednesday of every month. It is free to attend for cancer patients and their families.