JACQUI Drake knows all too well what a difference home comforts can make when you’re sitting in a room waiting for cancer treatment or test results.

Jacqui, who has stage 4 skin cancer, has spent the past few years undergoing treatment at Leeds Cancer Centre. It’s a place where people often talk to her about their experiences of cancer, or their anguish for loved ones. Now Jacqui is ploughing her remarkable energy into helping them.

Her own cancer diagnosis came 26 years ago. After the discovery of a malignant melanoma on her leg, she had a mole removed then, in 2009, she was diagnosed with a secondary cancer which spread to her lungs, leading to a lung removal in 2015. A patient at Leeds Cancer Centre, Jacqui set up a fundraising appeal in February 2016. And she’s aiming high - the goal is to raise £1 million for the centre through Leeds Cares, the charity partner of Leeds Teaching Hospitals.

So far her appeal, Jacqui’s Million, has raised £178,000 from a range of events and donations. This year Jacqui has held an 80s night, a Greatest Showman-themed ball, an afternoon tea and a sponsored walk. Last week she joined Brownies for bag-packs at Tesco on Canal Road, raising nearly £500 from two sessions, (the next one is Sunday, December 1, 11am-5pm) and she’s currently directing and choreographing a Christmas show, featuring a cast of 30 adults and 25 children.

“It’s a cabaret; the audience will be seated at tables, with white cloths, and there’ll be homemade mince pies and cake,” says Jacqui, 56, former principal of Shipley’s Debut Performing Arts Academy. “It’s all festive songs; a great cross section of music from old favourites like It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, White Christmas and Merry Christmas Everyone to songs like Believe from Polar Express and Sparklejollytwinklejingley from Elf, and Frosty the Snowman sung by the youngsters. There are some comic songs too. It’s a lovely uplifting show.

“I’ve been working on it with Anthony Martin, the musical director, and Matthew Spalding, an ex-student from Debut, who’s working on the musical Curtains. We’ve got a 10-piece band, and there’ll be a Christmas tree on stage. I want people to feel festive as soon as they walk in. We’ve even got Santa coming along!”

The show is called Positively Tinsel, continuing the positive theme of Jacqui’s appeal. Anyone who has met her will know that, despite having stage 4 skin cancer and ongoing treatment, she oozes positivity. “The NHS is wonderful, you really appreciate it when you see what it does, and how much treatment and medication costs,” says Jacqui. “My appeal is funding things the NHS is unable to buy - like home comforts for the cancer centre, which are important when you’re spending a lot of time there.”

So far Jacqui’s Million has funded a lead nurse in Systemic Anti Cancer Therapy; two venepuncture/cannulation arms, used to train doctors and nurses how to cannulate patients for scans and treatment; 15 drip stands and caps and coolers, used to prevent hair loss as a side effect of treatment. “Some cancer centres don’t have them,” says Jacqui, of Apperley Bridge. “We’ve given £110,000 fund 10 scalp coolers. People who donate to Jacqui’s Million can see exactly where their money is Projects for 2020 included refurbishing the waiting area, providing comfortable and appropriate seating, a coffee machine and lamps.

The Christmas cabaret is sponsored by Chadwick Lawrence Solicitors - “I met managing partner Neil Wilson at the Greatest Showman ball and it turned out his mum taught me to dance as a child,” says Jacqui - and the company is sponsoring next year’s 80s night, at Guiseley Theatre on February 8, and an East meets West-themed ball at Midpoint on June 20.

Jacqui is also supported by Bradford Bronte Rotary Club, which chose Jacqui’s Million as its current charity appeal. Also for next year, she’s planning a Mad Hatter’s PositiviTEA Party at Hollins Hall, Baildon, on May 17 and a Positivity Parade and Picnic at Golden Acre Park, Bramley, on July 15. “This year’s walk raised over £3,000,” says Jacqui, who is also hands-on in designing a range of charity merchandise, including scented candles, gin glasses and a monkey mascot.

Jacqui’s appeal has been boosted by a charity album released in memory of Simon Kerwin, a local musician who was treated at Leeds Cancer Centre. Simon died on November 7, 2018, following four months of treatment for a germ cell tumour. The 18-track brass band CD, Lago, produced by his widow, Tabby, was released on the first anniversary of his death and more than £5,000 has already been raised from sales for Jacqui’s Million.

Simon created more than 1,000 compositions and arrangements for brass band and concert bands, and the music for hit films Brassed Off and The Full Monty. Tabby said: “I wanted to celebrate Simon’s life and musical legacy and continue to raise funds for the cancer centre that looked after him so wonderfully. It was important to me to use our love of music to benefit others. It’s also very important to me to support my friend Jacqui and her wonderful mission to raise £1 million.”

The CD, by KMJ Recordings, features music composed and arranged by Simon, performed by Rothwell Temperance Band under musical director David Roberts. “The band is one of the best in the country. They have supported Simon, me and the project so much,” said Tabby, who has also donated nine personal CD players and copies of the CD for patients. “Music is a wonderful therapy,” she said. “I want patients to be able to listen to the music to relax as they undertake treatment regimes.”

Says Jacqui: “It’s a lovely thing for Tabby to do. I’m so touched that she thought of Jacqui’s Million when releasing the CD on Simon’s anniversary.”

Earlier this year Jacqui was honoured for her tireless fundraising with an award at the Yorkshire Women Volunteer Awards. “The appeal has taken over my life, it’s snowballed, and I’ve had so much support - from local companies to people dropping spare change into a tin at bag-packs,” says Jacqui. “I’m so grateful for people’s generosity and support. It feels like I have a lot of people with me.”

* Positively Tinsel is at King’s Hall, Ilkley, on Sunday, December 15. Performances at 1pm and 5pm. Call (01274) 432000 or visit bradfordtheatres.co.uk

* Lago - The Music of Simon Kerwin is at modeforpublishing.com