Raising an 11th anniversary toast to climbing Mount Difficulty

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

I ain’t saying I beat the devil
But I drank his beer for nothing
Then I stole his song

– Kris Kristofferson, To Beat the Devil

Tonight I shall open a bottle of fine Pinot Noir from my home country, New Zealand. Nothing so unusual about that; any regular reader of this Blog will know that I am partial (and loyal) to my homeland’s vinous outpourings.

However, this is no ordinary Pinot Noir, but one that I associate with this particular day in the calendar each year and drink with particular relish.

For it was on 9 June way back in 2010 that I was diagnosed with stomach cancer, a finding that would shape my life in many unexpected ways. As I have related previously on this Blog, on that day after receiving the fateful news, I walked into the wine department at my local Waitrose supermarket, seeking a wine from which I would draw the cork (or twist the screwcap) to mark, even celebrate, the beginning of my fight to beat the wretched disease.

As I approached the nearest gondola, the first wine I saw was the one I referred to earlier – Mount Difficulty Pinot Noir from Bannockburn in Central Otago, New Zealand. In both its provenance and what I saw as the symbolism of its name, it was a wine seemingly offered up to me by fate. I vowed to climb that most treacherous and difficult of mountains, whatever it took. And I suppose I did.

The original bottle (right) and tonight’s anniversary wine

So each year on 9 June I gladly open another bottle, remembering that each vintage marks another anniversary of having reached the peak. As always though, while savouring the taste, I will stop to think of those who, unlike me, did not make it to the top.

That thought came to mind this week as we confirmed with the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, the fourth annual instalment in our five-year EGB Cancer Research Fellowship which we created in 2017. The initials EGB honour loved ones of past and present members of the Moodie Davitt team who have been lost to the disease: Emma, sister to Chief Administration Officer Victoria Willey; Gary, father to former Brands Editor Helen Pawson (now with FILTR.QINGWA); and Brendan, husband of former Advertising Director Connie Magner.

The Fellowship is funding the work of Dr Katharina von Loga at The Royal Marsden Hospital – the hospital where I was treated and my life was saved. The pathologist is heading a team within the Centre for Molecular Pathology (CMP) to investigate how immunotherapy drugs work at a cellular level.

Leading the way in cancer research: Dr Katharina von Loga heads the team at the Centre for Molecular Pathology

The CMP team’s aim is to improve cancer diagnosis so that patients can be given the most appropriate treatment as early as possible. Dr von Loga’s work has progressed to focus on personalising cancer treatment using digital pathology and artificial intelligence.

The Royal Marsden Hospital Head of Trusts, Stewardship and Philanthropy Communications Nemone Warner said that The Moodie Davitt Report’s support has “enabled the creation of new research that could change the way that cancers of all types are diagnosed and treated on a global scale”.

That made me (and my team) very happy. Such a donation is not easy at present. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed enormous pressure on our business in common with all others in the travel retail channel. But equally it has squeezed vital charities all around the world and few rank as more vital in my view than The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, whose ground-breaking research work has led to numerous advances in cancer treatment and saved many lives at home and abroad.

And, bringing it back to a personal level, it was ultimately research (backed by the superb treatment and care I received at the Marsden) that saved my life and enabled me to celebrate that fact each year with a glass of Mount Difficulty. I have never tried the 2017 vintage (tonight’s tipple) before, but whatever its merits, the 11th anniversary wine is going to taste particularly good to me.

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  • Goodness Martin, is it really a year since you, Sally and I shared a virtual glass of Mt Difficulty together?