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Jane Gallagher & FACE

Jane Gallagher & FACE

In November 2006 when she was 16 my daughter Clare was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma. She spent a gruelling few months being treated at St George’s, mainly as an inpatient on Allingham ward and Ruth Myles ward.

At the time, even though she had only just turned 16, she was treated on adult wards; she was by far the youngest patient. The experience was extremely traumatic, although at the time we lived from one day to the next and put our faith in the medical profession.

Fortunately, Clare’s treatment was successful. She is now 21 years old and studying at Sheffield University. She has had some difficulties along the way, but she is essentially fit and well. We are extremely grateful to everyone at St George’s for saving her life.

Although she is doing well in many ways, the experience has left its mark on Clare. She is being treated for symptoms of PTSD by a psychologist from the teenage cancer unit in Sheffield and is slowly making progress.

Clare has often said that one of the worst things about the whole ‘cancer’ experience for her, both during and after treatment, is feeling so alone and isolated. At no point during or following treatment did she have the opportunity to meet anyone of her own age group, who had been through a similar experience. Adult services, although brilliant at treating the physical disease, seemed a bit clueless when it came to supporting a young person and their family, following diagnosis, during treatment and afterwards.

At the time, as a parent, it was difficult to articulate these feelings, as we lived from day to day. Now we have had time to reflect on the experience and believe that an adult ward was not an appropriate place for a 16 year old to be treated.

I became involved with FACE for a number of reasons: Firstly, as a way of expressing my sincere thanks to everyone who was involved in Clare’s care. Secondly, to raise funds to provide age appropriate activities for young people to have access to whilst they are in patients. Thirdly, to raise awareness about teenage cancer, in the hope that other young people will have a better experience than Clare.

I am particularly concerned about providing young people with an environment in which they feel more comfortable and where they have the opportunity to see other young people going through similar experiences, so they do not feel quite so isolated.

I also think it is vital that staff on adult’s wards are aware of the needs of young people and recognise that they are different from that of adults or young children. As well as providing a more age appropriate environment it is essential that young people and their families receive appropriate emotional and psychological support in order to minimise future problems such as those that Clare is experiencing at the moment.

Clare is fully aware of what FACE are doing and is in total support of it, however, she does not feel able to be involved herself at the moment as this would be too distressing for her.

St George's Hospital Charity wants to say a huge thank you to Jane Gallagher and FACE who since 2011 have raised over £13,000 to help support the Teenage Cancer Care at St George's Hospital! Such fantastic work.

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