A special gift, a lasting legacy

14.01.16 Categories: How donations help, Supporter stories,

Image: Sylvia Bennett and Julie Crickmay, mother and sister of the late Ian Bennett

A generous gift left to Guy’s and St Thomas’ from the will of Mr Ian Bennett is helping support research within St John’s Institute of Dermatology.

The £5,000 donation was made through deed of variation, which means that a beneficiary of the estate can redirect some of the money elsewhere. This is what Mr Bennett’s mother Sylvia Bennet and sister Julie Crickmay arranged, in thanks for the care Julie received at the Institute.

Supporting a cornerstone of cancer research

The gift is helping to support St John’s Institute of Dermatology research tissue bank. This is where tissue samples are stored and - with patients’ consent - used for ongoing research to improve treatment and care. The bank is a lasting legacy for future generations of doctors working on skin lymphomas.  

‘The samples in the tissue bank are what is studied in terms of research to identify abnormal genes,’ says Professor Sean Whittaker, professor of cutaneous oncology at Guy’s and St Thomas’. ‘The tissue bank is the cornerstone of a lot of the work that goes on in terms of understanding cancer at DNA level.’

Driving new knowledge

The donation is also supporting ongoing research, including a project to identify gene mutations in DNA that are likely to be causing certain types of skin cancer. The research is important for identifying successful treatments for patients, particularly for those who aren’t responding so well to standard treatments and urgently need an improved outcome. 

‘For patients with more advanced stages of skin lymphoma, in most situations there are a lack of curative treatments,’ says Professor Whittaker. ‘Without research driving new knowledge, the chance of a new treatment coming along which works is low. Support like this makes all the difference; it’s so generous of Julie and her mother.’

Julie’s story

Julie was treated for lymphoma at St Thomas’, which is where the Institute was located at the time, in 2005 and 2006. She struggled for many months to get a diagnosis from her local hospital, but once Professor Whittaker had seen her symptoms he was able to identify the cause.

‘He took one look at it and said, “I think this is lymphoma”,’ recalls Julie. ‘It was such a massive relief to come across somebody who actually knew exactly what we were dealing with. It had been a very long time to know that something serious was wrong, but have nobody who knew what to do about it. So that was really good.’

Guy's researcher

Julie underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy and finally received the all-clear in September 2006. She continues to visit Professor Whittaker at Guy’s for annual check-ups.

‘The treatment that I had was so efficient and so caring. Everybody at St Thomas’ was just amazing, I had such a good experience there,’ she says.

A positive legacy

‘After my brother died, he left my mum quite a lot of money and she was very grateful for what they’d done for me at the Institute, so we thought it would be a nice gesture to give the gift. The fact that it’s being used to fund research is brilliant, because that’s something that will be a benefit to everybody that comes across the same problem I had. 

‘Losing her son was very difficult for my mum, so she felt that she was at least doing something positive with the money that Ian had left,’ says Julie. ‘We felt comforted by doing it, like we were giving something back because all the care and attention that I’d had was so amazing.’

Leaving a gift in your will can be a wonderful way to give back, perhaps to show thanks, just like Sylvia and Julie chose to. All gifts, no matter the size, make a real difference in helping us provide the best possible care. Find out more about leaving a gift in your will to Guy's and St Thomas'.