We had a day off work today to attend a Cancer Research UK fundraisers conference down at South Mimms, not far from home. It was a bit nerve wracking as we had been asked to put on a 30-minute talk on our trip. Clare Hall Laboratories was a beautiful setting and the morning consisted of each of the regional fundraisers giving an overview on what they’d been up to in the past year. At the end of the morning when the formalities & annual reports were all submitted & applauded, we had our guest speaker, Dr Timothy Hunt, who in 2001, won a Nobel prize for his research into cell division, a crucial element in understanding how Cancer works. He reminded us of Michael Palin both in his appearance & mannerisms. Up until now, celebrity has never really awed us – but Dr Hunt was different. We can now claim to have stood in the presence of a true hero! What really impressed us was the foresight, knowledge & depth of mind he must possess to have delved into this topic in such detail, unravelling these fabulous mysteries of how cells divide and how it sometimes goes wrong with such horrific consequences. We sat in the room afterwards and pondered what a normal day must be like for a man like this. He lead us through his Nobel Prize work on studying cell division mechanisms in sea urchins and held every one of us in the room totally enthralled throughout. The other main stream of research concerns looking at DNA Repair mechanisms. They are currently studying some tiny worms (about 1mm long), which possess a simple DNA code of some 927 elements, compared to the human code consisting of billions. By breaking the DNA & examining how it can be repaired, they are compiling a tool kit of repair strands for fixing damaged DNA, which could be useful to fight Cancer.
After lunch, it was our turn to talk. Where the other fundraisers had been organising coffee mornings, antique shows and ‘roots & shoots’ sales, we were definitely something a bit different with our talk describing our journey around the shows over the past glorious summer. The conference finished shortly afterwards and we were inundated with well-wishers from the other fundraising groups, several of whom passed on donations, which we hadn’t expected. We left the conference on a real high – it totally vindicated (as if it needed it!) everything we had been doing this year and the information we learned today about where the money will go and how it is spent made it even more worthwhile. Driving home up the A1 we both felt 10 feet tall, as today really was the first measure of success and accomplishment in what we are doing on this whole Pan-American thing.