Terminally ill Jacqui pledges to raise £1m for Leeds Cancer Centre despite lockdown

Jacqui Drake Picture: Tim ZoltieJacqui Drake Picture: Tim Zoltie
Jacqui Drake Picture: Tim Zoltie

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Jacqui Drake is determined to complete her pledge to raise £1m for the Leeds hospital treating her.

Jacqui Drake is a force of positivity. Since her first experience with cancer over 25 years ago, the 57-year-old from Apperley Bridge has kept upbeat; even when she was told her skin cancer had progressed to malignant stage 4.

Since her terminal diagnosis a few years ago, Jacqui has been determined to raise funds for the Leeds hospital providing her treatment, pledging to raise £1m for charity Leeds Cares through her ‘Jacqui’s Million’ campaign.

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However, the current outbreak of Coronavirus has struck a severe blow to Jacqui’s plans, causing her to cancel upcoming events and rethink her fundraising. This is complicated further by the fact Jacqui’s treatment puts her at extremely high risk of catching the virus; so she is having to isolate alone at home.

Jacqui is determined to keep fund-raising during lockdown Picture: Tim ZoltieJacqui is determined to keep fund-raising during lockdown Picture: Tim Zoltie
Jacqui is determined to keep fund-raising during lockdown Picture: Tim Zoltie
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Jacqui says the current pandemic is extremely scary for patients like her, particularly as she only has one lung.

“You spend such a long time fighting cancer, just to be told there’s this other virus that could be equally devastating. As I have had one lung removed, I’m a really high-risk patient so I have no choice but to stay at home and try and stay as safe as possible,” she says.

Luckily, Jacqui is able to leave the house for ongoing life-extending treatment at the Leeds Cancer Centre, one of the only places she feels really safe. “I owe my life to those doctors and nurses and I really love going there. They make you feel so welcome and I’m so pleased I can keep going for treatment. I’m focussed on continuing to raise money as my way of saying thanks for the wonderful care I’ve received.”

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Despite being stuck at home, Jacqui is determined to keep fundraising in order to hit her target. Before the pandemic struck, she had already raised £203,000 through selling gifts and merchandise, and organising events like charity balls and cabarets.

Her fundraising so far has been spent on cancer equipment, research and improvements to in-patient wards at the Cancer Centre.

As a choreographer and former principal of a performing arts school, Jacqui is now using her skills to encourage friends and family to do virtual fundraising events – everything from sponsored head shaves to running – and she is also continuing to sell her popular ‘positivity’ charity merchandise from home.

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