A Colcestrian who has campaigned tirelessly to raise funds and awareness for testicular and ovarian cancer since the death of his older brother, has been recognised with a national honour.
Toby Freeman, aged 28, lost his brother, Robin, to cancer in December 2011. Robin was diagnosed with germ cell cancer in January 2011, and passed away aged just 24. What struck the family when Robin was diagnosed was the lack of information available to the public on germ cell cancers. Following Robin’s death, his family set themselves the mission of raising awareness of these forms of cancer in 16 to 35 year olds, focusing on testicular and ovarian cancers. Toby founded the Robin Cancer Trust in March 2012 and has worked tirelessly for it ever since.
Now Toby has been given a British Citizen Award (BCA) for his services to healthcare. BCAs are awarded twice annually, and recognise ‘everyday’ people whose achievements may otherwise be overlooked.
Both testicular and ovarian cancers are over 90 per cent curable if detected early, so by raising awareness of the signs and symptoms, there is a very real opportunity to save young lives. The Robin Cancer Trust also aims to reduce the embarrassment among young people in talking about their health, working hard to inspire young people to take responsibility for their health and seek medical help if they have any concerns. Toby has given, and continues to give, his absolute all to both of these objectives.
Talking Bollocks is The RCT’s testicular cancer awareness campaign. The aim of the campaign is to grab people’s attention, get them talking about testicular cancer, educate them on how to check for cancer and reduce the embarrassment factor! You’re Not Ovary-acting is the charity's ovarian cancer awareness campaign and its main aim is to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms, so that every woman has the tools to fight this disease.
Toby is one of 35 medallists who was honoured at a prestigious ceremony last week, at the Palace of Westminster. Speaking about his nomination, Toby said: “The charity idea was born out of grief really and it grew organically. We wanted to do something in Robin’s name but also wanted to help others who found themselves in the same situation. The charity is about Rob, but also about all of the other people who are affected. You don’t often step back and have time to reflect as things move at such a speed, but when we had given out over 23,000 temporary tattoos and stickers at the charity’s first ever festival and we stood there listening to a band playing one of Rob's favourite songs, you start to realise what you’ve achieved.
“Rob would’ve been incredibly proud of what we’ve done but we do have a bit of a running joke inthe family because he was a handsome chap but was very shy. He hated being the centre of attention so while he would’ve loved the charity, he would’ve hated the attention he’s getting.
“Receiving this award is very humbling and I’m very honoured to be picking it up, but I don’t do what I do for recognition. I’m just the face of the charity so it’s really thanks to all of our friends, family and all the amazing supporters who help the charity to grow.”
Toby was nominated for a BCA by friend and Robin Cancer Trust trustee, Joanna Harwood, who said: “In my view, to be able to take the worst thing imaginable that could happen to you in losing the person most dear to you and convert that into a commitment to help other people is exceptional by any standard. Toby’s commitment to the charity, and vision for its future, always shines bright.
“I really cannot think of anyone more deserving of recognition.”
And neither can we. Congratulations, Toby. Keep up the good work!