Falling ill with cancer is a worrying time for anyone – but for teenagers the disease poses particular concerns.
Until not very long ago, in Sheffield and elsewhere in the country young people with cancer were placed on adult wards, meaning that as well as dealing with their daunting treatment, they also faced the prospect of occupying a bed next to someone decades older than themselves.
But at the city’s Weston Park Hospital, teenagers now have their very own space in the form of a dedicated ward where patients aged 16 to 25 can feel comfortable, socialise and get extra support.
The unit receives £45,000 every year for equipment and services from the hospital’s cancer charity, and Sheffield boxers Adam Etches and Scott Jenkins have been busy helping matchmaker Richard Poxon – himself a cancer survivor – raise more than £23,000 through shows.
But now the boxers want to step up their charity activities, today launching a new campaign backed by The Star called Let’s KO Cancer.
Adam and Scott step into the ring tonight for the campaign’s first event, a fundraising bout at the Doubletree hotel at Meadowhead, and plenty more is planned over the next 12 months, including marathon runs, bike rides and a night of greyhound racing.
Richard, aged 41, said he was ‘shocked’ when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer aged 21. At the time, he was treated as an outpatient at Weston Park, and underwent an operation at the Claremont Hospital in Sandygate.
“You think you’re indestructible, you don’t ever expect it,” he said.
“For me, having a teenage ward would have made a massive difference. When you arrived, it seemed like one big reception room, and everything else was around you. What the teenage unit does is take all that away.
“It’s more like a ‘home from home’ where you’ve got your own room, and your own things to use.”
Richard, from Meersbrook, added: “For any parent, there’s nothing worse than one of your kids being ill. It doesn’t matter whether they’re five, 14, or 15, they’re still your children. But here you have your own personal space.
“I can remember, even in a private hospital, I was in a bed across from a 75-year-old farmer. Even for that couple of days I didn’t like it. It’s not quite like being in prison, but it’s the nearest experience.
“At Weston Park, when you see the unit and see where the money has gone, that’s when you appreciate it.”
The five-bed unit is set up differently from an adult ward, with facilities for young people including DVDs, internet access, musical instruments, TVs and games consoles. A lounge and conservatory is also provided for patients to relax in.
Youth support co-ordinators work on the unit too, organising a wide range of activities to keep patients occupied.
The boxers’ money has so far funded extra touches such as iPads, sofas and duvets.
Scott, 22, from Intake, said: “You know it’s making a difference – you realise how lucky you are being a normal person. That’s why we want to keep raising money, for that reason. The money we’re putting in makes it all feel more homely.”
Meanwhile Oran Kenyon, aged 16, from .Doncaster, is among the recent teenagers treated on the unit. He was diagnosed with bone cancer Ewing’s Sarcoma in May, and is still being treated at Weston Park.
Amid his distressing diagnosis and while braving the treatment, Oran managed to successfully pass 11 GCSE exams, including five grade As and two at A*.
“Although I still have a long way to go, I can at least be confident that I am in the best hands and in the most comfortable environment here at the unit at Weston Park Hospital,” he said.
“My main focus is getting better so that I can continue with my studies and start living my life to the full once again.”
The charity’s deputy director Catherine Rhone said: “We are incredibly grateful to Adam and Scott for choosing to support Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity again throughout 2014 with their KO Cancer initiative.
“Funds raised from their charity boxing matches have already made such a difference to the teenage unit and helped considerably improve the environment for patients living with cancer.”
n Weston Park Hospital’s Teenage Cancer Trust unit opened in 2002, and has five beds – four for teenagers and one with special facilities for patients having high dose chemotherapy and stem cell harvest treatment.
n Patients are mainly from South Yorkshire, North Derbyshire and North Nottinghamshire but for certain conditions and treatments patients may come from across the country.
n The main aim of the facility is not only provide expert medical care and emotional support, but also offer teenagers reassurance from patients of a similar age in an informal atmosphere.
n Each bedroom has an en-suite bathroom, and is equipped with an electronic bed, computer, telephone and TV. There is also a kitchen, dining room, roof garden, conservatory and ‘chill-out room’. Activities are laid on including day trips out, cinema visits and meals.
n The Sheffield unit was funded, built and maintained by the Teenage Cancer Trust, but Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity supports the ward by helping to improve the environment and funding comforts and treats. There is also another teenage unit at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, offering four beds for young patients with blood cancer.
n Visit www.wphcancercharity.org.uk for more information.