Combating loneliness in Teenagers with Cancer

by Teens Unite Fighting Cancer
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Combating loneliness in Teenagers with Cancer
Combating loneliness in Teenagers with Cancer
Combating loneliness in Teenagers with Cancer
Combating loneliness in Teenagers with Cancer
Combating loneliness in Teenagers with Cancer
Combating loneliness in Teenagers with Cancer
Combating loneliness in Teenagers with Cancer
Combating loneliness in Teenagers with Cancer
Combating loneliness in Teenagers with Cancer

Young people fighting cancer are stripped of their confidence and self-esteem, they are unable to see a future beyond their illness.

The Covid-19 Crisis of 2020/21 meant that we have had to rethink our beneficiary service delivery – and we have not been afraid to reinvent ourselves. True to our values, we did not let the pandemic stop the positive and powerful opportunities our Positive Steps Program brings - bringing together young people aged 13-24, from across the UK, who are all fighting cancer. While we have been unable to bring the young people together for a residential activity stay, we have created hundreds of opportunities for them to take part in our activities, all transitioned to online delivery but with the same set of objectives and outcomes.

The most recent, our large scale, bi-annual, motivational event, Discover You 2021. Discover You 2021 became an online conference with the same objectives of delivering positive, powerful insights and amazing take-aways to ensure that the beneficiaries

• gave themselves time and space to think

• created new visions, set realistic goals, and increased motivation

• had access to influential keynote speakers, collaborators and mentors who provided guidance and perspective and acted as role models

• learned practical, powerful skills which will help them to rebuild their confidence to return to education or early employment

• explored some lifestyle, and self-care choices needed to move on positively

• learned how to integrate peace and calm into their daily lives

And importantly,

• met other young people who genuinely know what it is like to face cancer in your teenage and early adult years

As the young people registered for the event, they were sent a welcome pack which contained a small selection of gifts to help with the objectives of the event – self care items such as hand cream, lip-balm, calming teas and some delicious, sweet treats, as well as adult colouring and puzzle books to help with mindfulness and relaxation and positive thought cards for daily reminders about the importance of being kind to yourself.

At 10am on Saturday 27th March, we welcomed 67 Teens to Discover You 2021, kicking off the event with a high energy ice breaker hosted by the amazingly talented and incredibly engaging MC Zani. As much as this high-octane ice breaker was great fun and had the group “boots and cats”- ing like professionals, there are documented health benefits of beat boxing. It’s known to improve your vocal cords and your breath control, its increases creativity and allows participants to really express themselves. Being able to identify and express feelings through creativity, improves the physical, mental and emotional well-being of the Teens, so many of whom suffer anxiety following their diagnosis and treatment.

Following this uplifting start to the day, the Teens headed to their chosen breakout group.

Some chose a fitness session with the guys from FLX Fitness which gave them an opportunity to test both their physical and mental strength. They were supported and encouraged and learned ways to rebuild not just their physical strength, but also their confidence and self-esteem. For some, it had been some time since they had done any activity, and the session left them with a real sense of achievement to resume physical activity helping them to understand what they can achieve in all aspects of their life.

Others chose a Yoga and Mindfulness session with Tara Trautman. The Teens learned techniques that helped to calm them, reduce their anxiety and fear. They learned how to combat the fatigue commonly felt by people with cancer. This kind of fatigue is different from the fatigue of daily life and different from the tired feeling people might remember having before they had cancer. It is commonly described as feeling very weak, listless, drained, or “washed out” and a feeling that may decrease for a while but then comes back. The skills they learned here, with Tara, will help them going forward to address this feeling as well as improving their sleep and slowly start to rebuild their physical strength.

The remaining Teens headed to the Self Care Talk Lounge, an informal session hosted by our own team, where they offered support to each other on a whole range of physical, mental and emotional issues. Hearing the young people telling each other the importance of self-care, encouraging each other to create and maintain healthy relationships with themselves, and offering suggestions for simple things they can do to look after themselves, from regular sleep and a healthy diet through to having a warm bath and reading a book or listening to music, was just heart-warming, and shows how very special this little Community we have created is. The support they offer each other crosses the boundaries of age, it crosses the boundaries of gender, ethnicity, religion, social class and education. Their strength lies in the thing that unites them, their common experience – facing a life-threatening illness in their teenage and young adult years. And the self-care talk lounge demonstrated this with abundance.

After a break for lunch, we all returned and had the absolute privilege of meeting three young people who have been supported by Teens Unite on their cancer journeys. They bravely shared their stories of derailment, disappointment and determination, stories of isolation, loneliness and finding lifelong friends, they faced questions from the Teens about how they found strength and built resilience and how they returned from serious illness to have happy, fulfilled lives, facing the future with strength and determination.

Totally motivated by the stories of their peers who had returned to education and employment following their cancer battles, the teens headed to further breakout sessions, this time focussed on careers, education and a return. Almost three quarters of young people diagnosed with cancer worry about the impact it will have on their future education or employment, and these sessions were designed to address those worries, and help the young people to see that their chances of success have not been impacted by the time they have had to take out.

The Teens chose to attend sessions about fashion design with FVCK Cancer, web and app design with The Life Group, returning from cancer with Dr Anisha (a cancer survivor herself), or a talk called Discovering your Strengths by founder of The Comeback Club. Some of these sessions offered work experience opportunities which the Teens relished and were keen to explore. They provided an excellent opportunity to learn from the best in the business and to provide the confidence to look forward to a future beyond illness.

The day ended in the most inspirational of ways as we were joined by international motivational speaker, former Teens Unite Trustee, and teenage cancer survivor, Chris Lambert-Gorwyn. Chris’s high energy session told how he sees himself as the lucky one having had cancer as a teenager; how it has taught him to take the positives from all situations; to celebrate small successes and to see every step, not matter how small, as a step towards your goals and aspirations.

This was a very fitting end to a day of positivity and motivation and ensured that the Teens left the event having met the objectives of the day – they learned some new skills, met interesting and inspiring people, and left feeling like the world outside is theirs to command.

91% felt more inspired after attending Discover You

91% felt more motivated

87% felt like they could challenge themselves more

83% felt more connected with other young people in a similar situation

This is an incredible legacy for the supporters of GlobalGiving to have helped create and we are very thankful for the generous finding that has enabled these opportunities.

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During what can only be described as a strange and difficult year for the whole World, we have all experienced some of the isolation and loneliness that the young people we support experience every day – isolated by their illness they have faced further isolation with the need to shield.

And, while we have not been able to get them together for our normal workshops and activities, we have been doing all we can to ensure that they stay connected with others who genuinely know what it is like to face cancer in your teenage and young adult years.

We have transitioned our Positive Steps program to online delivery, and rather than delivering an activity three or four times each month, we have been delivering online four times a week.

The young people have still been able to take a whole range of activities from exercise and relaxation, escape rooms and quizzes, cookery and art, dance and book and film reviews, all rounded off with an online Christmas Party that bought all of them together for a night of fun and laughter.

Each week we have hosted online sessions where the young people have been able to come together, learn new skills and be part of a community.  They have been able to chat and relax and spend valuable time with friends old and new.  

We thank you for your continued support of our work, ensuring that more of the seven young people who, every day in the UK, hear the words “you have cancer”.

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A community who genuinely understand
A community who genuinely understand

The social distancing measures imposed by Covid-19 have massively impacted our ability to deliver face to face sessions to combat loneliness in young people fighting cancer. However, despite not being able to bring the young people together physically, we have moved our beneficiary services to online delivery and have ensured that the young people we support have an opportunity to come together to learn new skills, improve their confidence and self-esteem, and importantly be part of a community.

During the Global Pandemic, the young people already isolated by their cancer were further isolated by the need to shield. As a result, Teens Unite’s usual face-to-face delivery of the Positive Steps program had to stop but all activities moved to online delivery instead. And now, rather than taking place three times each month, activities are held four times every week.

 Embracing technology and delivering activities more frequently has meant that Teens Unite has been able to extend support much further than before. Young people from anywhere across the UK are able to access the sessions, as well as those too unwell to make a return journey in a day, or even those currently in hospital meaning anyone who needs support can join our activities to learn new skills, regain confidence and most importantly, be connected with other young people who genuinely understand what it is like to face cancer.

 As a result, demand for the service has hit an all-time high, with an increase of 66% in registrations from the same time last year but at a time when income has dropped by 75%, due to the cancellation of all fundraising events and activities.

 All our work, including digital workshops, aims to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, provide a sense of achievement, improving self-confidence and self-esteem and ensure the young people create support networks with others who genuinely understand what it is like to face cancer in your younger years. The post digital activity surveys show that 100% attending feel more connected, more confident, have a sense of achievement, and feel part of a community. All attendees would both attend further sessions and recommend them to other young people fighting cancer.

 With your support, we will continue to provide online support for these young people until we can bring them back together for face to face activities.

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The first part of this project was secheduled for delivery in April 2020.  However, with the worldwide pandemic and associated lockdown's in place this has been postponed.

Isolation was the norm for these young people way before it became our normal. And now more than ever they need to feel connected.  So, unable to host a residential stay for the young people we have been delivering online sesions where they can come together with other young people who know what it is like to face cancer in your teenage and early adult years, take part in some activities, chat, form new friendships or reconnect with old friends.

We hope when we next report our progress we will be able to share details of a reunion of friends.

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Organization Information

Teens Unite Fighting Cancer

Location: Broxbourne - United Kingdom
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @teensunite
Project Leader:
Lesley Morris
Broxbourne, United Kingdom
$4,910 raised of $31,000 goal
 
79 donations
$26,090 to go
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