Spotlight reporter Ryan Hardie investigates how the Teens Unite charity is helping young people with cancer and what their aims are for the future.
CANCER is a major issue in young people today, with seven teenagers hearing the words ‘you have cancer’ every day in the UK. According to Cancer Research UK, the cancer incidence rates in young people have increased by 28% since the 1990’s, with 16,110 teenagers and young adults currently living with cancer and the long-term effects in the UK.
Teens Unite is a charity which helps people from 13-24 years old who suffer the social, emotional or physical effects of cancer. The charity was founded by CEO Debbie Pezzani, alongside co-founder Karen Millen OBE in 2007, who wanted to support teenagers and young adults who had been diagnosed with cancer.
Debbie explained how the charity began: “Teens Unite started with a young man named Chris. I met him when I was volunteering on a teenage cancer hospital ward. I remember thinking how sad and lonely he looked and he never seemed to have any visitors. He was extremely unwell, having just had a stem cell transplant. He was the sole carer for his two younger brothers; and he was still trying to support them while in hospital. I took him under my wing, supporting him through treatment and hospital appointments and being a hand to hold.
“The news that followed made Chris’s illness even harder to cope with. His younger brother had also been diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma; the same type of cancer and he passed away in my arms a year later. At the time, Chris said to me: ‘Not only have I lost my brother, but my cancer friend.’ I realised then that although Chris had the medical support around him to try and save his life, the rest of his world was collapsing around him. He didn’t have anyone to talk to and the rest of his life had been put on hold as a result of his diagnosis.
Teens Unite was founded to ensure that no young person has to face cancer alone. Debbie wanted to bring young people like Chris, together with others their age who understood what it meant to have cancer at their age and share their hopes, fears, happy moments and sad moments together
Teens Unite is a charity that does so much for young people with cancer, and has high aims for the future. Debbie said: “Ultimately, we want to ensure that no young person, across the UK, aged 13-24 faces cancer alone. Teens Unite helps young people to live with the reality of having cancer, cope with the lasting effects and continue life as the person they are and not just a cancer patient.”
The ‘House of Teens Unite’ is another major development by the Teens Unite charity, which plans on creating the UK mainland’s first purpose-built retreat, specifically for 13-24 year olds who have battled or are battling cancer.
The graph above describes the different forms of cancer in men and women in the UK, and shows which forms have been the most deadly. From looking at the graph, it shows that for both men and women, liver, lung and stomach cancer have the least chance of survival, and prove to be the most deadly in the UK. However, there are some positives to take from the graph, for example, testicular cancer has a net survival rate of nearly 100% in men, and Hodgkin lymphoma and Malignant melanoma are both over 90% net survival for both men and women.
When asked about the House of Teens Unite and the effects it can have, Debbie said: “In the last year, we have experienced a 15% increase in the number of young people registering to receive our support and as the demand for our services continues to rise, we are working towards building The House of Teens Unite.
“This will be the first, UK mainland retreat for young people who have been diagnosed with cancer. It will be a home with a heart, providing short term accommodation, leisure facilities and designated space to hold our workshops and activities on a more regular basis, so that we can support even more young people.
“We have raised the funds needed to secure the plot of land, which will be home to The House of Teens Unite. We are still working hard to fundraise for the build itself, however we are one step closer each and every day to opening the doors and making more of a difference.”
For Teens Unite, activities and workshops are massively important for the young people who are cared for. The charity holds an average of four activities and workshops each month, two residential stays each year, hospital visits and a bi-annual ‘Discover You’ event, where motivational speakers inspire, encourage and motivate the young people.
When asked about the importance of workshops and activities at the charity, Debbie said: “All of the workshops are designed to bring young people together, so they can meet others in similar situations, make new friends, learn new skills, rebuild their confidence and self-esteem, test their inner and physical strength and prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation. These workshops can range from arts and crafts, to cookery lessons, theatre trips and more physical activities. We cater for all interests and abilities so there is something for everyone to enjoy.”
Also according to Debbie, Teens Unite helps young people to live with the reality of having cancer, cope with the lasting effects and continue life as the person they are and not just a cancer patient, and helps to overcome the impact cancer can have at a young age.
Teens Unite is a charity that covers different areas to other relatable charities. Some charities cover research, some provide medical care in hospital, others grant wishes and some focus on social care.
Teens Unite will continue to provide brilliant services for young people with cancer, and hope to eventually ensure that nobody has to ever deal with cancer alone.
To find out more about the charity or to donate, please visit the Teens Unite website at: https://www.teensunite.org/