How Sir Bobby’s legacy lives on in cancer charity
DURING the latter part of his life, Sir Bobby Robson worked hard towards a new goal of fighting cancer through his charity. Health Reporter HELEN RAE spoke to the oncologist who he helped set up a pioneering cancer trials research centre.
SIR Bobby Robson may have passed away but his remarkable determination to beat cancer has endured with a lasting legacy off the football pitch.
As Sir Bobby battled cancer for the fifth time, he devoted the last 18 months of his life to raising funds to support those pioneering the fight against the often devastating disease.
In March 2008, the former Newcastle United and England manager created The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation to focus on the early detection and treatment of cancer and the clinical trials of new drugs that will eventually beat it.
The foundation has raised £2.4m since its launch and has helped fund a pioneering trials centre.
The Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre, within the Northern Centre for Cancer Care at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, opened in February last year and has seen 600 patients from the North East and Cumbria receive treatment there.
One woman who had the privilege of getting to know Sir Bobby before his death was Prof Ruth Plummer, an oncologist who helped care for him during his treatment for nearly two years.
“I met Sir Bobby when it was clear his melanoma had reached the stage where he would need chemotherapy treatment, that there wasn’t a surgical option any more,” she said.
“I told the research nursing team, who I work very closely with, that I was going to meet Sir Bobby Robson and my plan was just to talk to him exactly as I would any other patient and if I talked about trials was that an issue? They said ‘no’ if that was the best option for him.
“So he very early on knew about the cancer trials because we had a first-line melanoma study using the standard chemotherapy plus a promising new drug and he opted to go in to that rather than have standard therapy.
“He had been very involved in the trials and about six to nine months into treating him I said that we were raising money to set up a new trials unit and did he know any local businessmen who might want to make a donation.
“In the typical Sir Bobby way, he said would I put something in writing and he would think about it.
“Then a week or so later he told me that he had got a group of friends together and he and his wife had decided to set up a charity and they were going to do it for me to raise money for the unit.”