Frontline medical staff are sharing photographs of themselves in operating theatres as part of a new campaign to encourage people to take action if they spot signs of cancer.
The campaign is called Don’t Mask The Light, and was started by consultant plastic surgeon Theo Nanidis to show there is a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for cancer patients undergoing treatment.
So far, it’s helped raise more than £3,000 for Cancer Research UK.
The campaign started after one of Theo’s colleagues took a photo of him in the operating room not long after the first lockdown ended.
Theo said: ‘There was a lot of fear around, particularly during the first lockdown and I wanted to spread a message of positivity.
‘When I saw the photograph, it made me think of how dark times have been in the last year and I was flooded with emotion and feelings of sadness.
‘I was exhausted, I’d had pneumonia, so I was tired and feeling low. Services around the world hadn’t been perfect and the pain, emotional turmoil and uncertainty that patients must have gone through rushed to my mind.’
At first, his idea was to ask members of the public to post their own masked selfies, share their stories and, if they could, donate.
But as the campaign gained traction, medical professionals from all over the globe began taking their own photographs, masked and backlit with theatre lights.
Theo, 46, said he wanted to ‘remind people that the NHS is still open, we are still here.’
‘It’s really important to be aware of our bodies,’ he added.
‘There are a lot of patients who have been afraid to go to the doctors because of Covid, so they’ve ignored symptoms.
‘The main message is that I want people to know they should never ignore things like that. The NHS is open, they are there to treat people.’
He also said he spent ‘six hours a day for a week at least’ trying to figure out how to use Instagram to help the campaign spread even further.
There’s also been some friendly competition among the medical staff – surgeons in particular – who’ve got involved as they try to take the most inventive picture or use the most striking lights.
‘Some are trying to get the coolest picture or the best theatre lights.
‘But really this is about getting the message out there that we are still here, still working, and these charities still need funding,’ Mr Nanidis said.
A spokesperson for Cancer Research UK said: ‘We’re hugely grateful to Mr Nanidis and his colleagues for their support and the money they are raising to further our life-saving research.
‘Most cancer care is continuing, but understandably this is an anxious time for patients and their loved ones.
‘This photographic initiative is a strong, visual message to patients that surgeons, doctors, nurses and other specialists are thinking about them in these difficult days and doing their bit to try to help.’
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