Rose Thompson - Her Life and Legacy

Our co-founder Dr Rose Thompson
(14 August 1956 - 14 June 2023) was a Cancer Information Specialist Adviser and one of the UK's first qualified Black radiotherapy radiographers.

With over 45 years of experience in her field, Rose dedicated her life to addressing cancer inequalities faced by global majority and low-income communities, and worked tirelessly to improve cancer care for all.

Rose was born in Nottingham, UK to her parents Samuel and Monica Miller, who came to Britain from Jamaica as part of the Windrush Generation. Born as one half of a set of twins, Rose was one of a total of eight siblings and spent her early years growing up in a lively Caribbean home.

Rose's journey with cancer started when her mother died of breast cancer at age 47 while Rose was training at Nottingham School of Radiotherapy. Sadly, Rose went on to lose two more sisters to the disease, including her twin sister Maureen. These experiences, as well as Rose’s observations of global majority communities being diagnosed with cancer at young ages ignited Rose’s passion for improving cancer awareness and care for those in society who had been frequently overlooked.

During her 40 years of work, Rose was invited to become the national Black and Minority Ethnic Cancer Information Specialist at Europe’s leading cancer information and support charity, Cancerbackup (now integrated with Macmillan Cancer Support). Rose eventually went on to co-found her own organisation BME Cancer Communities (now The Rose Thompson Foundation) with her husband Lindsay in 2009. During her 14 year tenure as CEO, she went on to found two cancer support groups (Friends and Bredrins and Sista's Against Cancer), authored the ground-breaking ‘Hear Me Now’ reports addressing the high rates of prostate cancer in African-Caribbean men, and established the prostate cancer community clinic ‘Check Tings Out’. In 2017, Rose received an honorary doctorate in Social Science from Nottingham Trent University in recognition of her significant contribution to global majority community engagement in preventative cancer care.

In 2015, Rose sadly became the fifth member of her family to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite this, Rose never stopped working, continuing to lead  her beloved charity, and serve as a trusted adviser and trustee for organisations like Can-Survive UK, and  the Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer Screening. In 2017, Rose received an honorary doctorate in Social Science from Nottingham Trent University in recognition of her significant contribution to community engagement in preventative cancer care.

After a valiant 8 year battle, Dr Rose Thompson passed away from breast cancer on the 14 June 2023. She continued to provide cancer support and advice right up until the day before her passing. The loss of Rose has been felt deeply, not only by her loved ones, but by the many patients, friends and colleagues’ lives she touched across the globe. While Rose is no longer with us physically, The Rose Thompson Foundation exists to serve as a symbol of her legacy, and to continue pushing forward the vital work she started.

Rose Thompson's life was characterised by her unwavering passion for reducing cancer inequalities and her relentless drive to improve cancer and related health services for patients and those affected by cancer.

Rooted in both personal and professional experiences, Rose's journey was marked by her commitment to making a difference.

Her Achievements and Accomplishments

In 2009, Rose founded BME Cancer Communities, a Social Enterprise aimed at addressing cancer inequalities and their impact on BME and low-income communities. She established two Cancer Support Groups: Friends & Bredrins Prostate Cancer Support Group in 2012 and Sista’s Against Cancer in 2018.

Rose authored two impactful reports titled "Hear Me Now!" In response to evidence showing that black men were twice as likely to die from prostate cancer in the UK, these reports shed light on the uncomfortable reality of prostate cancer in black African-Caribbean men. Launched in the House of Parliament in February 2013, the reports presented crucial recommendations to confront this inequality and resulted in the national 'Hear Me Now!' campaign in 2015. 

A high point in this campaign was the first prostate cancer risk assessment drop in community clinic in Nottingham . The popular and catchy name for this initiative was 'Check Tings Out!"  You can play the  sound clip below.

 Her Campaigns

Rose's tireless campaigns led to significant changes within the healthcare system, including the reduction of the age for PSA testing from 55 to 45, adjustments in the age for breast cancer screening, provision of prosthetic items more tailored to people of colour, introduction of a choice of BME menu items in local hospitals, and establishment of a multi-award-winning hair and wig service for black women undergoing chemotherapy.

 Honorary Doctorate of Social Science

In 2017, Rose received an honorary doctorate of Social Science from Nottingham Trent University in recognition of her significant contribution to global majority community engagement in preventative cancer care.

Transition to a Charity in 2019

In 2019, BME Cancer Community transitioned into a charity and was renamed B’Me Against Cancer, reflecting Rose's innovative twist on the acronym BME. Her ethos, "Be me," symbolised her vision of putting oneself in others' shoes. This transition marked a new chapter in Rose's mission to combat cancer inequalities and provide holistic care to those diagnosed with cancer

Her Vision 

Rose personal experience led her to embrace the fact that personalised, culturally appropriate cancer care, is woefully inadequate within the healthcare system. She  envisioned establishing a state-of-the-art Cancer Resource Centre that would provide culturally appropriate and holistic care for patients and carers, ensuring the best opportunities for survival or recovery and offering adequate support for carers. 

Her Legacy

Rose Thompson's legacy transcends her achievements and accomplishments. It encompasses her personal experiences within the healthcare system, both positive and negative, and her lifelong dedication to fighting cancer inequalities. Her passing serves as a reminder of the inadequacies within the healthcare system and the ongoing need for advocacy and change. The impact of her 14-year campaign continues to inspire and fuel the passion of those committed to realising her vision. 

As we honour Rose's memory, we are reminded of the enduring importance of her work and the continued pursuit of equitable cancer care for all.