How sailing gave this Sheffield cancer survivor, aged 17, her confidence back

Ellie Thompson, from Sheffield, has spent the last six years sailing and making friends with fellow cancer survivors.

Wednesday, 18th September 2019, 7:00 am
Cancer survivor Ellie Thompson, aged 17,  of Sheffield, on the far right. who has enjoyed sailing and other activities with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust.
Cancer survivor Ellie Thompson, aged 17, of Sheffield, on the far right. who has enjoyed sailing and other activities with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust.

Ellie, who is now aged 17, was treated for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. She was diagnosed when she was just eight-years-old, but was later given the all clear after receiving treatment.

Ellie has spent the last six summers sailing with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, which supports cancer survivors, aged eight to 24, and uses sailing to rebuild their confidence and support them as they re-engage with education, employment, relationships and society.

Ellie first sailed with the Trust when she was just aged 10, and earlier this summer she went on one of their residential trips at a water park.

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Cancer survivor Ellie Thompson, aged 17, of Sheffield, on the left, who has enjoyed sailing and other activities with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust.

This trip was part of the Trust’s unique Return to Sail programme, which provides the extended long-term support many young people need after cancer, whatever stage of recovery they are at.

Ellie said: “I wouldn't be the person I am today without the Trust trips, they’ve given me so much more confidence in myself, with others and at trying new activities.

“I have made new friends that I speak to on a daily basis, meet up with outside of the trips, and have been able to talk to about my troubles. The trips are the thing I look forward to most all year.

“The Trust gives patients and ex-patients the chance to speak to one another about similar experiences which allows them to feel more comfortable with their illness, more confident in themselves and grow as people.

Cancer survivor Ellie Thompson, aged 17, of Sheffield, who has enjoyed sailing and other activities with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust.

“Everybody has been through roughly the same thing so people can understand others’ struggles.”

The Trust trips help young people develop confidence through learning new skills. The sessions allow them to push their physical boundaries and rediscover their independence.

Ellie has told her story to mark Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, which is this month.

The teenager has come a long way in the last few years, as when she first started going on the trips she was reluctant to do things after her cancer treatment, particularly if it meant being away from her family.

Mum Lindsey said: “Ellie developed separation anxiety after her treatment, and would do very little initially. It was someone on the ward who first mentioned the Ellen MacArthur Trust to us.

“The whole thing just felt very scary to her and she said she’d only go if we came too, so we hired a caravan nearby so that we could spend the week 20 minutes away if she needed us.

"Her dad and I got a phone call from her that first night to tell us what a brilliant time she was having. She was already full of stories and adventures, and the joy in her voice was brilliant to hear."