Supporting teenagers with cancer

Jordan Watson of Doncaster
Jordan Watson of Doncaster
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No-one wants to be told that they have cancer, and if the person receiving such news is young and of previously good health, the effect can be doubly shocking.

But if caught early, the prognosis can be good.

A charity that works to prevent cancer in young people, and to help those who are already diagnosed, is to hold an awareness week to raise its profile among teenagers.

Jordan Watson of Doncaster on TCT sailing day

Jordan Watson of Doncaster on TCT sailing day

Teenage Cancer Action Week will take place from September 28 to October 4, and schools, parents and professionals are urged to join Teenage Cancer Trust in getting information out to all young people.

The message is clear, said Catherine Foster, regional fundraiser at Teenage Cancer Trust: Learn the five danger signs of cancer and if you are worried or experiencing any of them, see your doctor and if necessary, a specialist.

Signs that you should seek medical help include: persistent pain, a lump, bump or swelling, significant weight loss, extreme tiredness, or changes in a mole.

Jordan Watson from South Yorkshire was diagnosed with leukaemia at 21.

TCT social area in Royal Hallamshire

TCT social area in Royal Hallamshire

His diagnosis followed 14 months of unexplained pain.

Jordan, who is now 23, said: “It started with an ache in my shoulder. I saw the doctor and was given anti-inflammatories, but the pain got more severe. It spread to my opposite arm and then all over my body.”

Tests at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital were inconclusive initially - Jordan was a medical mystery.

When a lump appeared in his throat it was thought his symptoms would disappear with its removal, and his tonsils were taken out too, but still the pain persisted.

“I lost a lot of weight. I had more tests. I was exhausted but when I fell asleep the pain would wake me up,” said Jordan, from Doncaster.

When the muscles around his knee swelled up he underwent bone marrow tests, and was at his grandad’s home when his mum called and asked him to go home.

“She told me it was bad news as I had leukaemia, and would need chemotherapy,” he said.

“I remember thinking that cancer only happened to older people.

“I was fitted with a Hickman line for intense chemotherapy. It was a bit like a dream. But I was told there was a good success rate with leukaemia and I felt quite positive.”

From then on Jordan was a frequent visitor to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital’s teenage cancer unit, which is funded by the Teenage Cancer Trust.

During treatment he was encouraged to make friends, go to conferences, and on trips to boost his morale and physical health.

“It was amazing, meeting other people and getting to try different things like sailing – it helps to share your experience,” said Jordan.

Jordan, who had played for his local football team and visited the gym regularly was left weak by his illness.

But he started swimming to build up strength, with youth support co-ordinators from the Teenage Cancer Trust alongside him.

He took his lifeguard certificate, which involved two 25m lengths of a pool in less than a minute.

“It was a great feeling. You can conquer most things and have a normal life even with cancer,” he said.

Now on maintenance, and hoping to be in remission by February next year, Jordan is keen for others to support the work of the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Catherine said: “Our units in NHS hospitals are made to feel as homely as possible. Events such as pizza nights or movie shows help to break up the routine for patients.”

Without the trust there would be less specialist treatment and no outreach workers or organisation of trips.

“Cancer is still rare in young people but 2,500 new cases are diagnosed each year, and the earlier these are discovered the better,” added Catherine.

Anyone can support the charity from September 28 to October 2, through sponsored events, sales or fundraisers.

Doncaster firm Askern UK is to hold a cake bake and sale, and BMW on Wheatley Hall Road will host a raffle with the prize of a car for the weekend up for grabs.

For more information or to download a teaching pack visit Teenace Cancer Trust Or text GIVE to 70500 to donate £5 to the trust.

If you have any questions about fundraising email Catherine.Foster@teenagecancertrust.org