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Andy Barton oversaw the creation of the Leica User Forum’s Charity Book 2012. Here he shares the process of putting together the book and what it means for him personally.

I am delighted to have been invited by Leica to provide another entry into their blog on the subject of the Leica User Forum’s Charity Book. As many will remember, two years ago, members of the forum raised over £12,500 for the Association of International Charity Research (AICR). Buoyed by the success of that edition, the team decided that we would do another for 2012, once again helping AICR in their work supporting over 50 cancer research projects around the world.

The process for the preparation of the book was similar to the first edition, but this time we decided to only include the 100 best shots from the entries submitted. Having received over 260 shots, the anonymous panel of judges had a tough time choosing the successful submissions – we could have easily made two books this year. I had a most enjoyable couple of weeks editing and putting the book together and we were grateful to have forewords written for us by both AICR and Leica. Everyone concerned has been delighted with the reception that it has received both on and off the forum.

This project has a personal resonance for me. I am one of the 30% of us who suffer from cancer and know only too well the affect that this horrible disease has not only on the individual but also on their family and friends around them. I am fortunate in this regard, as I have a huge amount of support from those around me and through other charities and the medical profession who administer my treatment. I am now in remission from my first round of symptoms and am benefiting from a relatively new form of treatment – the kind of thing that the AICR support makes possible. As you go through this kind of trauma and learn more about the causes (unknown in my case) and the treatment, the laws of unintended consequences come into play.

As an example, several of the chemotherapy treatments for non-Hodgkin Lymphoma are derived from the mustard gas weapons used in the First World War. It was noticed during the 1940s that survivors of gas attacks were getting fewer blood cancers than the normal population, spearheading research into the constituents of the gas and how they could be put to therapeutic use. Drugs such as Bendamustine, popular in Eastern Europe and now available elsewhere, wear their origins on their sleeves and are highly effective constituents of chemotherapy regimens used in the treatment of lymphoma. Those of us who benefit today, must never forget that we owe a great debt to those who suffered in the trenches nearly 100 years ago.

Today, a huge amount of research is being undertaken in the field of monoclonal anti-bodies, basically man-made antibodies, specifically designed to treat particular problems. I am currently enjoying being treated every other month with a drug called Rituximab, which targets certain receptors on the surface of cancerous lymphoma cells and allows the body’s own immune system to kill them. This leaves most healthy cells, which do not have these markers, intact, allowing the body to continue to maintain an immune system – something that wouldn’t be possible if the treatment targeted all of the cells.

My cancer is not curable but it is manageable, at least for the foreseeable future. Being fortunate enough to be receiving the Rituximab maintenance treatment, I can expect to have a remission period between the more aggressive treatments some 2 ½ years longer than I would otherwise. This means that I can continue to enjoy using my Leicas and making more charity books for longer! Hurrah!

I am proud of what we have achieved with these two books, both of which would stand on their own as excellent examples of the work that the members of the Leica User Forum put together on a regular basis, regardless of the charitable aspect. However, the fact that we are raising money at the same time really does make the project something worthwhile. Combined with the fabulous support of Leica and AICR, through their social media initiatives and Leica’s financial support for the first book, together we have raised nearly £20,000.

So, it just remains for me to say “thank you” on behalf of everyone who has contributed their work or assisted in the judging of the book, and an especially big “thank you” on behalf of AICR and the researchers around the world, looking for the next Rituximab.

Here’s to the next £20,000!

-Andy Barton

If you would like to learn more about the book and hopefully even purchase one you can visit the virtual bookstore on Blurb,