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Features | 09 Dec 2020

For many young people ‘the Big C’ means COVID as well as cancer

Around 60 young people living with cancer - or who've had it - attended the first ever virtual Teenage Cancer Trust 'Find Your Sense of Tumour' event over the weekend (5-6 December). Vodafone supported with connectivity for several of the participants.

The Teenage Cancer Trust’s (TCT) ‘Find Your Sense Of Tumour’ event has been going since 2001 and is usually a weekend retreat. But this year, for the first time ever, it had to be held online because of coronavirus.

Despite this, TCT patients and former patients shared their experiences and drew support and inspiration from other young people who really understood what they were going through.

“This year’s event may have been virtual, but there was nothing virtual about the impact it had on the young people who took part,” says Kelly Scott, TCT’s Head of Youth Engagement and Development.

Fittingly, given the new format, ’embracing change’ was the theme of the first day, which included an inspirational talk from cancer survivor Harvey Burnett; virtual get togethers that enabled the young people to share their experiences; and a series of live workshops covering body image, anxiety, and fatigue in remission.

Attendees could also dip in to a range of on-demand virtual learning sessions featuring yoga, skincare, and job interview techniques.

On the second day, the focus switched to ‘being kind to yourself’. One topic, overcoming adversity, featured a talk by GB wheelchair basketball athlete Amy Conroy, and there was also advice on how to boost your wellbeing using mindfulness and breathing techniques.

“There were some amazing speakers and the team really managed to transform the magic of ‘Find Your Sense of Tumour’ to the digital space,” says Kelly.

‘Survival and recovery’

Seven young people are diagnosed with cancer every day in the UK.

But if they have to go into hospital, they usually end up on wards with much older – or much younger – patients.

TCT, which is funded solely by donations, aims to avoid this by running 28 specialist wards for young people with cancer in hospitals around the country.

Its goal is to “improve the experience, survival and recovery of young people aged 13-24 with cancer” – something the charity has been doing for 30 years.

But in 2020, COVID-19 has presented new challenges and put unprecedented strain on NHS hospitals across the country. Many of the young people having cancer treatment have had to cope with the added trauma of isolation and loneliness when visitors were banned from wards.

Vodafone stepped in to ensure the teenagers and young adults on TCT wards could keep connecting with family and friends by providing free connectivity to those relocated or inconvenienced due to COVID-19.

“The extra connectivity provided by Vodafone has really helped to make them feel less isolated,” said Kyle Armstrong, a Youth Support Coordinator at the TCT ward at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridgeshire.

“It’s been very important for their mental health.”

In a similar way, Vodafone provided Mi-Fi devices and tablets to those young people who did not have the necessary connectivity to attend the TCT’s virtual Find Your Sense of Tumour event.

“The event went brilliantly,” concludes Kelly, “and we are very grateful to all our partners, including Vodafone, for their support.”

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