Chemogiftbags story started in October 2013 when its founder, Lynne Shipton, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Lynne could not have chemotherapy but those she met during her treatment told her about what they might have to endure. Lynne’s thoughts kept going back to the huge impact chemotherapy had on people’s lives and wellbeing and she was determined to help those going through this gruelling treatment. Initially she worked to raise funds for other charities, but she wanted to do more.
Understanding that there is a lot more to chemotherapy than losing your hair (skin, nails, gums, teeth and self-confidence are all affected) she asked patients she knew what would have helped them before and during their treatment. Further research showed that there were not any charities providing for patient’s physical needs, so a plan was formed.
In 2015 the plan started as a list of items needed, both practical and essential, that could be used whilst patients were having chemotherapy. Such is the nature of treatment that the list quickly became long, and Lynne realised she would need to put all the products into a bag. Chemogiftbags was born.
The organisation became a registered charity in July 2016 with the mission of offering a free bag of invaluable products to both women and men in Berkshire. Lynne’s efforts were deservedly recognised in this year when she was awarded Organisation Champion of the Year.
Chemogiftbags have been described by those who have received one as ‘a hug in a bag’, ‘a bag that goes on forever’ and ‘a bag that gives insight into a Chemotherapy journey’. Everything we put in has a use and a purpose and is in there because we have listened to what people say they need, and we have responded to that. For many of us working in this charity, we did not know what we needed until we needed it, by which time it was too late. We do not want that for anyone else.
All our bags are packed by our team of Volunteers, most of whom have been touched in some way by breast cancer. Some have been through it themselves and others are still fighting it. As a team we know what it is like to have this disease and how daunting and scary treatment can be. The cost of essential items, especially organic, can be expensive so to be given a Chemogiftbag by people who understand and care, helps immensely.
We value our care packages at around £100 each. In 2019/2020 we gave out approximately 160 bags (£16,000) and with this number increasing year on year, so make a significant contribution to cancer care in not only Berkshire, but the Thames Valley Area.
Our aim is to continue to grow the number of patients we can support. We rely entirely on donations, not just financial but also the products we need to source. We are thankful to have an amazing team of volunteers, all who add so much value to the success of our charity, bringing with them a multi set of skills. We could not do without them.
Josie Wilde is running 5K every day to raise money for Chemogiftbags!