How to improve prevention and symptom awareness in the community

The role of Cancer Champion is a fantastic way of engaging with communities to raise awareness of the importance of early diagnosis and prevention. Cancer Champions are members of the community who volunteer to raise awareness about cancer among their family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues.  They do this by spreading key messages through word of mouth and information distribution and they can also signpost people to local services and encourage people to seek medical advice when appropriate.

We would like to shine a light on a local Cancer Champion who, with the support of his employer The Wates Group has gone the extra mile to spread the key messages with work colleagues across the organisation.

Tell us a little bit about yourself David

My name is David Armstrong and I live in Newcastle. I am a Build Manager for Wates Construction, I have been in the construction industry all my working life. My father also worked in the construction,  he died of cancer which started in his bladder. One of my sisters has also been treated for cancer and has received major surgery. Over the years it has been a very challenging time for my wife Lorraine and all the family.

Why did you decide to become a cancer champion?

Having been treated for cancer myself and working in the construction industry, talking about cancer is like the “elephant in the room” and it needs to change. The industry has a large work force and a Cancer Champions only needs to make a small impact to have a positive return.

What kind of activities have you been involved as a Cancer Champion?

I have held regular cancer awareness sessions using props and with great support from Healthworks Newcastle who provided my original training. I have the full support from my employer Wates Construction who allow me to deliver sessions across sites in the North East and Yorkshire .

I speak openly about my bladder cancer and my feelings. I ask people in the session to close their eyes put their hands on the table. I ask them to lift one hand up and imagine they are holding a key to the front door. I ask them to open they door and to imagine they see a room where an intruder has wrecked everything. I ask them how they would feel in that moment knowing someone or something has invading your private space.

What difference do you think you have made as a Cancer Champion?

I feel that every session I deliver does make a difference. It is a ripple effect, each person attending will then speak with their own families, friends, and work colleagues spreading the messages.

During one of the sessions with Healthworks an operative on site asked for advice, a member of the Healthworks team sign posted him to go to his GP. The operative found out it was cancer, they received treatment and are clear now. Sometimes people just need a connection and someone to talk to about cancer.

What would you sat to someone thinking of becoming a Cancer Champion?

I would definitely recommend that they do it, they can make a difference. We only need to make a small impact to have a great effect. Cancer Champions can have conversations that are shared with many people living in the community or working in an organisation. It’s like dropping one pebble in the water and that pebble causes 100s of ripples across the water that stop when they reach someone in the water.

This is what the Wates Group said about David’s fantastic work

Having Davey Armstrong involved in delivering sessions has been absolutely fantastic, emotional, and inspiring and I cannot thank him enough for all the work he puts in to get sessions organised, working with Healthworks and then his enthusiasm and passion at each event.

These sessions have the most positive effect on our staff and supply chain who attend them despite being a very sensitive subject.

As part of 2022 Cancer awareness week , he has been attending all our Yorkshire and NE sites to deliver his sessions which has had fantastic feedback. Davey is now going to embark on training to become a Prostrate Cancer champion. He is using the gift from Wates of using his 2022 Take your birthday off as annual leave for Wates 125th Anniversary to undertake the Training.

I am really proud to work with Davey and see how much difference he is making within our region.

Jayne Spencer

Community Investment Manager