British advertising executive Nicola Mendelsohn has launched a brand new charity following her incurable blood cancer diagnosis – and it’s already been supported by the likes of Victoria and David Beckham.
The 48-year-old businesswoman, from Manchester, who is Facebook’s Vice-President for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, was diagnosed with Follicular lymphoma in 2016.
Now, she has launched the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation (FLF), which is dedicated to helping people with the disease to live well and get well.
It will achieve this by funding research to find new treatments and cures for Follicular lymphoma, and supporting patients and their families affected by the disease by creating information resources.
To help raise awareness of the launch, Nicola teamed up with renowned photographer, Rankin, to capture a series of striking images which will help to make this invisible disease, visible.
The images feature popular British celebrities – including opera singer Katherine Jenkins, Actress Tracey Ullman, and magician Julius Dein, as well as Nicola herself – with purple veins on their faces and necks, to mimic the dye that is used to reveal the condition.
British advertising executive Nicola Mendelsohn (pictured) has launched the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation (FLF), a charity dedicated to helping people with the disease to live well and get well. She was diagnosed with the currently incurable blood cancer in 2016
To help raise awareness of the launch, Nicola teamed up with renowned photographer, Rankin, to capture a series of striking images which will help to make this invisible disease, visible. Pictured, opera singer Katherine Jenkins
The pictures reveal purple veins on the celebrities faces and necks, to mimic the dye that is used to reveal the condition. Pictured, magician Julius Dein
Speaking on the Victoria Derbyshire Show today, the mother-of-four said she tries not to think about the fact her disease is terminal.
She added her four children take comfort in the fact she’s still working despite her incurable cancer diagnosis, because it reassures them that she’s ‘alright’.
‘I try not to think about that, erm, I think [my children] try to not think about that either,’ she explained.
‘They say that they see how I am, they look me, and I do ask them, I’m asking them all the time, ‘How are you about it?’ and they go, ‘Well, you’re alright mum, if you’re working, if you’re living what seems like our normal life, then we’re OK’.’
Nicola told how she is determined to find a cure for the incurable disease through her newly established charity, and believes it can be done in her lifetime with the right funding and publicity.
‘I think the science is there,’ she said. ‘It’s an invisible disease, no one has ever heard of it, and I think where science is progressing to now, I do think with the awareness, the fame and the money raised, I absolutely do believe there will be a cure.’
British advertising executive Nicola Mendelsohn has revealed her four children take comfort in the fact she’s still working despite her incurable cancer diagnosis, because it reassures them that she’s ‘alright’
Nicola, pictured with her husband Jonathan, told how she is determined to find a cure for the incurable disease through her newly established charity, the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation
She added: ‘The aim of the foundation is to help people around the world, the hundreds of thousands of people living with follicular lymphoma, to live with it but ultimately to one day get well with it.
‘I don’t want the charity to exist, I want us to find a cure, and so we need to raise lots of money in order that we can actually give the scientists, the researchers, the tools they need in order to do the job of finding a cure.’
THE LAUNCH OF THE FOLLICULAR LYMPHOMA FOUNDATION
Commenting on the launch, Nicola Mendelsohn said: ‘Despite hundreds of thousands of people living with follicular lymphoma it has a very low profile and there has been comparatively very little investment into the disease.
An average 20-year survival from diagnosis might look good on paper, but I’m in my 40s with a husband and four beautiful children that I want to see grow up. It’s not enough, and I’m not satisfied when we know that the knowledge and technology is available that puts a cure within our grasp.
Living with a chronic disease that you can’t see but requires constant, exhausting management and treatment is incredibly isolating, and as Follicular lymphoma receives so little attention there are very few places to turn to find information or support.’
British photographer and director, Rankin, said: ‘The Follicular Lymphoma Foundation is a fantastic cause and I was honoured to be involved in the creative development process for this meaningful campaign.’
‘The concept we landed on is both thoughtful and distinctive. I wanted my work for the Foundation to convey a strength of purpose alongside some serious style. People should look at these images and feel uplifted, empowered and ready to join the fight to beat this disease.’
Katherine Jenkins OBE said: ‘I feel privileged to be part of a campaign which is helping to shine a spotlight on an invisible illness which many people, like my good friend Nicola, are living with every day.
For the two thousand people who are diagnosed with Follicular lymphoma in the UK each year, my hope is that the imagery released today will help to raise vital awareness and funds, which will go towards strengthening their treatment journey and finding a cure.’
Tracey Ullman said: ‘I am proud to be involved in the launch of this campaign to bring attention to people living with the anxieties and uncertainties that come with a Follicular lymphoma diagnosis.’
‘I hope that the imagery we have created with Rankin helps to reach people affected by the disease across UK – and beyond.’
Julius Dein said: ‘As a magician, I’m accustomed to making things disappear and then reappear, so the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation’s campaign to make Follicular lymphoma visible really resonated with me.’
‘I’m incredibly proud to be supporting the launch of a charity which will help to change the lives of so many people.’
The Follicular Lymphoma Foundation (FLF) is a brand new charity dedicated solely to funding research that finds new treatments and cures for follicular lymphoma and supporting patients, and their families, affected by the disease, by creating an information resource for patients and by bringing patient, research and clinical communities together to strengthen the path to better treatments and cures.’
‘It will additionally work to support the global research community to ensure the widest possible level of collaboration on future research into the disease.
In its first three years, the charity aims to raise $20 million (£15.5m)
Nicola underwent chemotherapy and immunotherapy for six months and was given the ‘all clear’ at the end of December last year.
However, the nature of the disease means it can return at any time.
‘I was given no evidence of disease which was the best news I could have ever possibly have wished for,’ Nicola explained.
‘Follicular lymphoma is a slow growing blood cancer and there are treatments out there that can put it into remission. But actually it can come back and it can come back at any time, we’ve got no idea of knowing.’
Speaking on the Victoria Derbyshire Show today, the mother-of-four said she tries not to think about the fact her disease is terminal and could take her away from her four children
Nicola admitted there isn’t really a day where she doesn’t think about her diagnosis, but feels thankful for the support she has.
‘I love my life, I love the job that I do, I love my family and I’m blessed in that respect,’ she told Victoria.
Nicola previously revealed the advice she was given by fellow female executive Sheryl Sandberg when she returned to work as one of the bosses at Facebook.
Speaking to Stylist, she revealed that she was eager to ‘carry on’ after receiving the news of her illness, and told of the advice COO Sheryl Sandberg gave to her after she revealed her condition.
British executive Nicola Mendelsohn, 48, Manchester, reveals the advice she was given by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg when she returned to work
The CBE is Facebook’s Vice-President for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, has continued in her role, despite being diagnosed with an chronic follicular lymphoma. Pictured receiving a CBE at Buckingham Palace in Dec 2015
She said: ‘When I was diagnosed, work said take the time, whatever you need to do to get better. But I think that’s the worst thing so I said I’d like to carry on.
Then [during] treatment I didn’t know how I was going to be… but I was able to work and my best working days were usually around my chemo days.’
The mother-of-four went on to recall the advice Sheryl, 50, gave to her when she told of her cancer.
‘She said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t do the secondary worrying’,’ the executive recalled.
Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, 50, told Nicola not to ‘do the secondary worrying’
Nicola revealed that she was eager to ‘carry on’ working after receiving the news of her illness
Secondary worrying is becoming anxious about issues that are not yet a problem – for example, Nicola began to imagine what her children would do when she had passed away.
‘A huge amount of energy goes into that and we do ourselves a lot of damage. As soon as I see that happening, I shut it down and try to preoccupy myself,’ she explained.
In 2016, Nicola discovered a small lump in her groin, measuring less than half a centimetre, before a CT scan showed she had tumours all over her body.
In 2016, Nicola discovered a small lump in her groin, measuring less than half a centimetre, before a CT scan showed she had tumours all over her body
Nicola wrote last year that her type of cancer is ‘slow growing’, that it is ‘currently incurable’
She previously described how she and her husband, Jonathan Mendelsohn, had to sit their four children, aged 13 to 20, down to tell them the devastating news.
What is chronic follicular lymphoma?
Follicular lymphoma (FL) is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). It develops when the body makes abnormal B-cells – the lymphoma cells. B-cells are white blood cells that fight infection. The lymphoma cells usually build up in lymph nodes but FL can start in other parts of the body.
The most common symptom is a painless swelling in the neck, armpit or groin. Other symptoms may include:
To diagnose FL, a doctor removes part or all of an enlarged lymph node and checks it for lymphoma cells. You will also have tests and scans to find out how many groups of lymph nodes are affected and whether the lymphoma has spread.
FL is slow-growing and does not always need to be treated straight away. If you need treatment, it often involves a combination of chemotherapy and a targeted therapy drug called rituximab. Some people may have radiotherapy. You may be invited to join a clinical trial looking at new ways of treating FL.
Information supplied by Macmillan Cancer Support
Nicola recalled: ‘Zac is our youngest and his first question was, ‘Are you going to die?’ That’s always the thought that comes into your head when you hear the word ‘cancer’.
‘It is not a conversation I could ever have imagined having with them, not even in my worst nightmares, until it hit me in the face. It was the hardest moment of my life.’
Nicola wrote last year that her type of cancer is ‘slow growing’, that it is ‘currently incurable’, and how 60 per cent of those living with lymphomas live more than 10 years.
Addressing her prognosis, she said: ‘Perhaps that seems an acceptable prognosis to give people in their sixties and seventies, but it doesn’t feel acceptable if you’re 46, like me. I’m not satisfied with that.’
She said she has chosen to monitor her cancer through the ‘watch and wait’ approach, and will begin treatment – a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy – if and when her symptoms worsen.
Nicola revealed how she had given up processed sugar from her diet, and now exercises twice a week, admitting she feels ‘much healthier’.
She said she wants to encourage others to check for the tell-tale signs of the disease, as well as calling for investment into research to find a cure.