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Youth club set to open for young people affected by cancer

24 February 2015

Health Care

On Tuesday 3 March the Macmillan Information and Support Centre at Southend University Hospital is to run a four-week programme at the Shoeburyness Youth Centre aimed specifically at supporting young people (aged 11-18) affected by cancer.

The Macmillan team is working in partnership with the Young Carers Forum and they are inviting young people affected by cancer to come along and meet youngsters in a similar position and talk to trained specialists if they want to.

The whole scheme came about after Friederike (Fred) Englund, the Macmillan Information and Support Centre manager, received a poignant letter from 13 year old Hannah Canbrey, who was struggling to come to terms with her mother Debbie's cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment.

Hannah recalls: "I think at the time I wrote the letter I was annoyed because there wasn't any support available specifically for people my age. I wasn't blaming anyone I was just determined to have something done about it. Because there was no outlet, I felt alone and unhappy, but I didn't want to tell my parents and upset them."

Hannah's mother, Debbie, had previously visited the Macmillan Information and Support Centre in Southend University Hospital, where she was also being treated, seeking information and support on lymphoedema after being diagnosed with breast cancer. After meeting Fred and her team, Debbie encouraged Hannah to write a letter asking Fred for help.

Debbie said: "All the way through my treatment Hannah was absolutely brilliant and so strong but, at the end of my treatment, she just fell apart and missed quite a lot of school. None of her friends had been in a similar situation as Hannah so didn't understand how she was feeling."

Fred and her team of volunteers responded to the letter determined to help Hannah and other youngsters. Keen to find a solution, Macmillan volunteers, Dawn Crockford and Caroline Venables, carried out some research and discovered the Shoebury Youth Carer Forum.

Caroline was just 17 years old when she had to deal with her mother's cancer and 15 years ago, Dawn tragically lost her six year old son to illness. Looking back, Dawn feels her other son didn't get as much support as he needed during his brother's illness.

Dawn said: "I'm really interested in ensuring the family of cancer sufferers get the support they also need, particularly young people, and hopefully the cancer journey will be less harrowing."

Caroline added: "When I was Hannah's age, I didn't know who I could talk to. So, for me, help at that time about what lies ahead would have been really helpful.  You're at an age that shapes you so it's really important."

The club in Shoebury will teach youngsters new ways to cope with daily experiences such as school or college, how to talk to people and look after yourself. At the end of the four weeks, if the youngsters would like to carry on meeting their new friends and continue receiving support, there is the opportunity to join the Young Carers Forum.

Fred said: "Youngsters don't have a voice because everything is focussed on the cancer patient. Teenagers are on that journey to becoming independent and suddenly they are thrown back because there is the responsibility of a sick parent. It just throws them in complete turmoil and it singles them out as different to the rest of their friends.  The club is somewhere they can be a normal teenager and give them a voice."

The venue has a climbing wall, pool table and music room and it will be a case of asking the youngsters what they want to do - it's up to them. Dawn added: "We are thinking outside the box, it's not being regimented but being led by the young people; rather than what we think they want - they can tell us what they want." 

Hannah has high hopes for the new group: "I'm hoping the group will mean young people like me won't get ill or stressed because we will have someone to talk to about it. Don't bottle it up because the outcome is much worse. It may feel like the right thing to do at the time, but it really isn't." 

ENDS

Notes to editors

The four week Shoeburyness Youth Centre programme starts on Tuesday 3 March (7pm - 8pm). It is open to youngsters aged 11 to 18. Youngsters under the age of 16 must have parental approval to attend.

Please call in advance if you are attending so that the club can know how many youngsters to plan for. 

Call Brenda on 01702 298495 at the Shoeburyness Youth Centre or telephone Dawn or Caroline at the Macmillan Information Centre on 01702 385101 or email:macmillan.centre@southend.nhs.uk.

The centre is located in Delaware Road, Shoeburyness, SS3 9NS.