By Penny Parkinson
Did you know that the French charity which most closely resembles Cancer Research UK is La Ligue nationale contre le cancer? It celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. And I am sure that you DON’T know that it was first called La Ligue franco-anglo-americaine contre le cancer, aiming to fund research into the disease across the three countries. Inevitably, separate national organisations developed and it took its current name in 1927.
Since then, La Ligue has expanded to provide support across France through its network of 103 affiliated comité départmentales. All of these, including La Ligue itself, are registered charities relying on the generosity of volunteers giving their time freely and funded entirely by donations.
Like Cancer Research UK, La Ligue is the largest non-governmental funder of research into cancer in France. But this isn’t all that it does. It provides positive help to patients and their families. Its national helpline gives a caller access to emotional support as well as information, lawyers give their time freely and there is a service to help those in financial need. Many local committees organise support groups for patients and families, as well as provide information and practical help.
Maybe you have seen that giant colon on the streets of Perpignan? It is La Ligue which instigates national campaigns of information to encourage screening. It also sends trained volunteers into schools to talk to children about the dangers of smoking or the need for sun cover.
The former is an association which, through its Maison ‘Entre Parenthèses’ in Perpignan provides support for women touched by cancer. As well as activities, the ‘Maison’ has a team of therapists to aid relaxation and a feeling of well being. The informal kitchen area encourages chat.
It has been recognised that suitably adapted sport during and after cancer treatment gives enormous benefits both physically and mentally to a patient. Here in the P-O, this is provided through CAMI 66 which runs twice weekly classes called ‘sport après cancer’. You may have seen them in action around the lake at Villeneuve de la Raho.
Both these associations rely on volunteers, the generosity of donors and organisations like La Ligue.
And did you know that our own anglophone cancer support organisation, Cancer Support France, is in partnership with La Ligue? CSF provides language skills to La Ligue nationally and locally we work together to better support everyone in France touched by cancer.
So next time you see someone shaking a La Ligue tin for a donation, remember that the money isn’t just for research. And they have been fighting cancer for 100 years – worth a euro in the tin