June 2019 marks 20 years of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. ‘Jo’s Trust’ as it was first known, was founded by James Maxwell in 1999 after his wife, Jo passed away from cervical cancer.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the charity, their children Tom, Lucy and Alexander sat down to discuss the early days of Jo’s, what it means to them and their hopes for the future of cervical cancer prevention.
Lucy: I always thought that Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust was the most extraordinary gesture of love by a husband for his wife. Our father set up the charity in 1999 because there was no specific resource for him and mum or other people with cervical cancer. I know that mum felt incredibly isolated when she was going through her diagnosis.
Ali: The fact that Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is 20 years old represents a success out of what was a really difficult thing that happened to our family and a desperately difficult time for our mother and our father. It’s a recognition that what dad did in response to mum’s struggle has helped hundreds of thousands of people with what our mum called an ‘unfashionable’ disease. No one used to talk about cervical cancer. We are so proud that now people know about it and have support when they are suffering from it. You cannot imagine how proud that makes us feel: that our parents were a huge part in helping so many people.
Lucy: I think he foresaw the power of internet to deliver information and put people in touch with one another. Launching a website focusing on a forum was a new concept back then.
Tom: And for people to have an opportunity to ask questions and just get a nice quick answer to let them know whether it is something they should be worried about or not is incredibly helpful.
Lucy: One of the things that’s amazing is how much more aware people are of cervical cancer now than 20 years ago. There has been a huge shift in the awareness and support that is available, which I think Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has been a big part of. I also think we’re talking more openly about our gynaecological health a lot more which can only be a positive thing.
Tom: It makes me enormously proud to know that this little charity that dad started in his garden during a very difficult period in his life is helping other people get through difficult periods in their lives.
Lucy: So now, I always get a little thrill when I see a Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust poster on the Tube or the side of a bus and think ‘that’s because of mum, that’s because of dad, that’s because people needed to know about this.
Ali: The goal for the next 20 years has to be the eradication of cervical cancer. Even saying it out loud and realising what you’re saying brings forward a lot of emotions. Remembering mum’s struggles, dad’s ambition when setting up the charity, the work of the family and friends who helped to get Jo’s off the ground, the work of all the volunteers and those who have worked for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. There’s still a long way to go but we very much believe that with the right moves and with continued support that it is an attainable goal.
Lucy: The goal always was from day one that nobody else’s mum dies. In whatever small or epic ways Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust can try to get that to happen, that is the goal – always was, always will be. That means talking about cervical screening, educating about symptoms and getting as many children vaccinated from HPV as we possibly can. Also working with the medical profession and the NHS, to try to ensure with all that we already know about this disease which is a huge amount, that no one else’s kids have to be sat here in 20 years’ time saying the same thing.
Tom: We would just like to finish by saying thank you so much to everyone who has been part of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust in any way, big or small, over the last 20 years. We are enormously grateful and would only ask that people continue to give their support as we continue to strive towards the endgame of eradicating cervical cancer.