Cancers ‘only get funding if there’s a celebrity attached’

A terminally ill father of five has hit out at the “hierarchy” of cancer funding that he says appears to favour illnesses that have a celebrity attached.

Johnnie Meechan, who is terminally ill with a neuroendocrine tumour, claims that rarer cancers lose out in a funding ‘hierarchy’. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Johnnie Meechan, who is terminally ill with a neuroendocrine tumour, claims that rarer cancers lose out in a funding ‘hierarchy’. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Johnnie Meechan was diagnosed with a relatively rare form of the disease called a neuroendocrine tumour, commonly known as NET, back in 2016, having been in remission for 16 years.

The 43-year-old, who was told by doctors at the time that he had no more than five years to live, has now spoken of the often overlooked financial difficulties people in his position face – being unable to work and with a family to support. Meechan said: “It sounds brutal, but if the right people fall ill with the right disease then that’s when the funding appears.

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“I think the way society is going, it’s this obsession with celebrity and it’s incredibly difficult to get any kind of light on that when you have an illness that isn’t known about. I’ve always wanted to try and get rid of that attitude, to try and get rid of this hierarchy in different branches of cancer and other illnesses. It shouldn’t be like that.

“At the end of the day, cancer is cancer and they should just be trying to cure it. Instead, they’ve got people getting dragged left, right and centre in some game to see who can raise the most funds.

“The money that ends up going to the actual cancer research is miniscule.”

Former post office worker Meechan, from Tranent in East Lothian, was first diagnosed in the late 1990s with a malignant tumour in his right knee. The keen amateur footballer was initially told by his GP he was suffering from a minor sports injury or had fluid on the knee. However, this progressed to four years of gruelling chemotherapy and major surgeries, which Meechan said was “utter hell”. It ended up with him being given a replacement knee.

Doctors at the time gave him no more than a few years to live. After years of pain, Meechan was given the choice of amputation above the right knee or more surgery with no more than a 30 per cent chance of success.

At present he receives treatment at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre. Meechan, who started a video blog in 2016, said the mental challenge of being seriously ill was “draining”.