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Childhood Cancer Awareness Month puts confidence in focus for Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust

by Ashton Howard 6 Sep 2018 17:01 BST
Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust trips help rebuild confidence after cancer treatment © Tom Roberts

Dame Ellen MacArthur believes rebuilding young people's confidence after treatment is critical in many being able to move on with their lives as the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust supports Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September.

Every day at least 11 children and young people get the news they have cancer. Thankfully survival rates are increasing, but life after cancer isn't always straightforward.

Throughout this month, the Trust will be highlighting the importance of supporting young people during the challenging, but often overlooked, phase of re-engaging with life after cancer, and how recovery is as much about what happens post-treatment as during.

Since its launch in 2003, more than 1,900 young people aged 8-24 have sailed with the Trust in recovery from cancer, and as it celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2018, over 660 young people will sail with the Trust for the first time or as part of its log-term Return to Sail programme.

Ellen said: "The goal of the Trust is helping young people in recovery from cancer and leukaemia and seeing those smiles and that confidence build is what it's all about. These trips aren't really about sailing, they are just a vehicle, it's about regaining your life.

"We have worked with some young people for our entire 15 years, with many now young adults who return to volunteer on our trips. We find a huge transformation in many young people the first time they come sailing with us, and we often have letters from parents saying 'thank you for giving us our son or daughter back.' But it's a long process."

One young person who has been supported by the Trust for 13 years is 27-year-old Gemma Foster, from Portchester. The former Southampton Solent University student was treated for Hodgkin Lymphoma at Southampton General Hospital after being diagnosed aged 13.

Having endured a year of treatment, she set sail on her first Trust trip in 2005. But Gemma is not alone in admitting that the Trust's support has been invaluable to her ever since.

She said: "It's only been in the last couple of years I've dealt with cancer. No one really knows or understands it unless you've been through it or have lived with people with it.

"You can be very medical about cancer, but there's a whole dimension beyond science. It's been five years since I had the medical all clear, yet some days your past hits you harder than others and you can feel massively vulnerable. The Trust fills that gap."

Through Trust trips young people develop confidence through learning new skills, making friends, talking to others who have been through similar experiences, pushing physical boundaries, rediscovering their independence and no longer feeling alone.

They are supported, empowered and inspired to re-engage with education, employment, relationships and society. That's why when treatment ends the Trust's work begins.

To follow everything the Trust is up to during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/EllenMacArthurCancerTrust or visit our website www.ellenmacarthurcancertrust.org/getinvolved

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