Photo of Kerry Rafferty

Kerry Rafferty

Washington-based Kerry Rafferty has been nominated by her husband, Jamie. He says “My wife Kerry was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2015. After her diagnosis, she realised that there was no support for people diagnosed with this disease. She also saw there was a lack of awareness to protect yourself from melanoma, which is is 85% preventable.

In 2017, she co-founded MelanomaMe. using her own money to as a way of helping others in the way that she didn’t have through her diagnosis.

This organisation provides a free counselling service. Kerry also goes into schools and workplaces to do awareness sessions even though she always has the threat of this affecting her again.”

Who will the initiative help/who has it helped already?

“MelanomaMe. has already helped people and families effected by melanoma by providing counselling where people want help after their diagnosis in the Sunderland area.

There are also Awareness sessions via a drop in service or presentations in work places in the North East. Also recently launched are the SPF5* Awards, where there has been a pilot project funded by a grant involving four schools in the Sunderland area.

Through the pilot, young generations are shown how to protect themselves in the sun. Teachers can get involved and change their perception of sun awareness.

There is also a Beauty award where people working in the beauty industry can highlight suspicious moles to clients who may not be aware they have a potential life-changing cancer growing on them.

In the future, they are trying to reach a far greater audience to try and reduce the alarming rate at which this disease is being diagnosed.”

What’s worked?

“So far, the feedback from the awareness sessions  at some of the North East’s largest companies has been fantastic. The first school involved in the pilot has been awarded its certification and changed the children’s mindsets towards sun protection.

The school has made changes by building a shaded area for the children to play in at break time. The people from the beauty industry are now more aware of what to look out for on their clients. Families and cancer patients are getting support in coming to terms with what having this disease means.”

What have you learnt? Any challenges?

“We have learnt that Melanoma is not just a ‘cut out and cure’ cancer. It is a deadly form of cancer with no cure and the best diagnosis of a patient is No Evidence of Disease. A reoccurrence can happen at any time if a stray cancer cell was not caught when removed.

People’s opinion of the dangers of UV exposure and care in the sun needs to be changed. This is not an easy task and the Government needs to take action now. Currently it is the fifth most diagnosed cancer in the UK and the current rate of diagnosis will make it number one within the next decade.”

What’s next?

“Currently the organisation is a Community Interest Company but it is currently in the process of becoming a charity.

By becoming a charity more funding can be given provide the resources that are needed for the business to grow and help more people and raise more awareness. At present, people are working long hours on a voluntary basis as they feel so strongly about this.”

What advice, contacts or resources would help?

“Contacts and resources who would help to raise funds and awareness would be of great help to make the organisation grow and reach its potential.”

Why we’re sharing these stories

An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Igniting Inspiration recognition event in November, but we want to publish all relevant stories to spread awareness of all the positive work that goes on in the North!

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