In five short years, Go Sober for October has managed to become one of Macmillan Cancer Support’s biggest fundraisers.
Enthusiasm for the month-long campaign has grown year on year, with 61,550 people already signed up for the 2018 event.
And the good news is there is still time to take part.
With some 99 per cent of Macmillan’s services funded by public donations, every penny makes a difference,
Michelle Gallacher, Macmillan communications manager, said: “The event raised £5 million last year.
“That’s enough to fund our support phoneline in Glasgow for a year, which in 2017 helped almost 97,000 people across the UK.
“In Scotland, there are around 400 Macmillan nurses who each see an average of 168 people a year.
“People who take part in Go Sober for October are helping someone access a nurse or talk to someone on the phone at a time when they really need to.
“That wouldn’t happen without Go Sober for October as 99 per cent of our services are funded by the public.
“People absolutely can make a big difference; if everyone taking part even raises £50 or £75, all of that money combined turns into a massive amount.”
As well as the support line and nurses, Macmillan funds a huge range of services here in Scotland.
It offers support and information services in libraries across Scotland including Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Dundee.
It also has support services in hospitals including the Beatson and Borders General.
And its benefits advice services, in partnership with local authorities and other charities in Scotland, are another source of support.
Michelle said: “Previous research has shown people in Scotland are £420 a month worse off after diagnosis.
“Often they have reduced incomes and increased costs, such as buying new clothes because of a weight change or having to use the heating more because they’re feeling the cold more.
“People diagnosed with cancer are worried about their health but they also end up worrying about their jobs, rent, mortgage and bills too.
“Having someone to talk to about those concerns and get some advice is like a massive weight being lifted.”
Macmillan is also looking at new ways of supporting people who are diagnosed.
Very often people find it difficult to find the services that are right for them and need help getting in touch with them or asking for what they need.
So Macmillan ran a pilot project, Improving the Cancer Journey, in Glasgow, which it funded to the tune of £3 million.
Everyone with cancer was offered an assessment of all their needs, then help to find the right support.
It has helped thousands of people with problems ranging from money worries, housing adaptions and debt, to loneliness, childcare problems during treatment and help at home.
And it has been such a success that Macmillan is now looking to roll it out across Scotland.
Michelle said: “We launched the service in Dundee around a year ago and are now talking to other local authorities about working with them to fund similar services.”
Macmillan campaigns for better services too.
It is coming to the end of its Transforming Care After Treatment (TCAT) programme and is campaigning for the best practice evidence it has found to improve cancer support across Scotland.
Michelle said: “We spent £5 million funding 26 projects which aimed to test and spread new ways of supporting people with cancer, both during and after treatment.
“The projects were based in the NHS and local authorities across Scotland.
“They were all designed to improve care and support by putting in place new ways of working and providing staff with tools that would allow them to make sure the care the person with cancer was offered was based around their own individual needs.
“In Glasgow, for example, a project in Stobhill Hospital saw women who had finished treatment for breast cancer offered an assessment of all their support needs.
“And in Fife a similar project based in the local authority helped people going through treatment find the right care and support.
“Each project was different but they were all about making sure people with cancer received person-centred care.
“The Scottish Government was a partner in the programme and in the cancer plan it commits to using lessons from TCAT to improve care.
“We’re campaigning to make sure this happens.”
In the meantime, the charity is calling on people to support its work by giving their liver a rest this month and abstaining from alcohol.
Michelle added: “Our most successful fundraiser is the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning which has been going for around 30 years.
“Go Sober for October was launched in 2013 and, in just five years, has become a huge success story too.
“It really seems to have captured the imagination.
“We can’t thank all our Sober Heroes enough for taking on the challenge.
“And we hope that even more people will sign up to take part this month.
“They really can help us make a difference.”
How you can play your part
In 2017, more than 75,000 people took part in the challenge and raised over £5 million.
That is enough money to fund Macmillan’s free cancer support phoneline for a whole year.
The support line – 0808 808 00 00 – is staffed by specialists from 9am to 8pm, Monday to Friday. It acts as a lifeline for people worried about cancer.
In 2017, it helped to deal with more than 150,000 enquiries.
Michelle said: “Some people walk out of an appointment a little bamboozled and then call the support line to discuss their diagnosis. Every member of the team has worked on cancer wards for years so they have the experience to deal with the call.
“We also have a welfare advice team to help people if they are worried about money problems as a result of their diagnosis.”
If you would like to take part in Go Sober for October, register today at www.GoSober.org.uk.
This will create a profile that’s searchable on the website, so it’s easy for friends and family to find and sponsor your efforts.
You can also keep an eye on your fundraising progress and Sober Heroes across the country.
Everyone who takes on the challenge is encouraged to go without alcohol for 31 consecutive days.
However, Macmillan knows this isn’t always possible as other commitments can get in the way.
For this reason, Sober Heroes can get their hands on a golden ticket – provided they or a good friend donates £15 to their fundraising efforts – which entitles them to a night off.
For more details or to sign up, visit www.GoSober.org.uk.