Cancer doctor's incredible legacy

IT was back in 1998 that cancer specialist John LeVay was the driving force behind Cancer Campaign in Suffolk. By the start of 2008, the charity had raised three-quarters of a million pounds which has been spent in support of cancer services in the county.

James Marston

IT was back in 1998 that cancer specialist John LeVay was the driving force behind Cancer Campaign in Suffolk.

By the start of 2008, the charity had raised three-quarters of a million pounds which has been spent in support of cancer services in the county.

Today JAMES MARSTON looks back at the legacy of a man who eventually succumbed to the disease he battled throughout his working life.

HIS Royal Highness the Duke of Kent officially opened The Cancer Campaign in Suffolk's information centre back in October 2004 - and John LeVay was on hand to guide the visitor around the facility.

Since it's opening the centre, in Ipswich Hospital, has been a pillar of support to cancer patients and their families.

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Gina Cooper, spokeswoman for the CCIS and friend of Dr LeVay, described the work of the centre.

She said: “Factual, up-to-date information can make an enormous difference to anyone affected by cancer, including family and friends.

“We offer a vast range of printed information on all types of cancer and treatments. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters including local businesses we have two comfortable interview rooms where patients, relatives and carers can receive emotional support and advice in private from trained professionals on request.

“The third interview room has been specially equipped so that specially trained staff can offer a range of complimentary therapies including reflexology and aromatherapy.

“This is an ongoing service that the charity continues to raise funds for.”

Gina said the initial idea for the charity came from a conversation between former Ipswich Town footballer Jason Cundy and Dr LeVay.

She added: “The charity was set up following a conversation about the lack of good quality accurate up-to-date information about cancer in Suffolk at the time.”

And in 2003 the Evening Star pledged its support for the CCIS by launching it's Raise the Roof Campaign.

Star news editor Jessica Gallagher said: “Anyone with cancer will tell you that it is so difficult to take in any information when you have just been given such devastating news.

“Our campaign raised £100,000 which went towards the information centre. The public really got behind the campaign and, thanks to a series of events organised by readers, we raised the money in just ten months.”

But the charity and the information centre is not the only legacy left by the 51-year-old.

Barbara Hercliffe, a therapy radiographer who worked closely with Dr LeVay said many people's lives were touched by an intensely private man who was never keen on the glare of publicity.

She said: “I worked with John when he was the oncologist at Ipswich Hospital. He was the specialist in cancer treatment with main specialties in breast and testicular cancer.

“He was passionate about the support and information and those things that make such a difference to people living with the disease. He was very keen people should have access to that support outside the clinical environment.”

Mrs Hercliffe said CCIS and the information centre were just one of the man's many achievements.

She said: “John touched a lot of people's lives through what he did and the treatment he gave. He had a great influence in the development of the oncology department while he was clinical director.

“When he came here about 12 years ago he was a young consultant and very forward thinking.”

Mrs Hercliffe said Dr LeVay formed close and effective professional relationships with nurses and radiograpohers.

She added: “He worked very hard to raise the profile of the department both locally and nationally. We were one of the first departments to have a Macmillan information support radiographer and John worked very hard to develop that role and holistic approach to treatment.

“In terms of his dedication and vision he was inspirational in the department and there are a lot of people that owe a lot to John's guidance.”

Mrs Hercliffe said Dr LeVay's legacy would also be seen in the continued work of CCIS and current fundraising for a mobile information and support unit.

She added: “The lasting tribute will be the continued work in what John began and that is really the start of his legacy.”

As the tributes flood in the charity and those who knew and worked with Dr LeVay are today paying a tribute of their own.

In a statement the trustees and patrons of the CCIS said: “The trustees are delighted to announce with the agreement of John's wife Jo and Ipswich Hopsital that the Cancer Information Centre in the future will be known as the John LeVay Cancer Information Centre.”

To donate and for more information about the charity call 0845 6026607.

Were you or a loved one treated by Dr LeVay? Would you like to pay tribute to Dr LeVay? You can leave your tributes using the Your View form below.

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