|Dental Faculty support for the Teenage Cancer Trust|
|Thursday, 01 April 2010|
Lara Cowpe reveals how an oil painting by one of the College’s Fellows helped fund a leading cancer unit for teenagers and young adults
In 2008, to commemorate the silver jubilee of the Dental Faculty, Dr Elias Absi, Fellow of the College, completed an oil painting of members of Dental Council, which he donated to the RCSEd.
"TCT is giving teenagers in Wales, and elsewhere in the UK, the chance to to be treated closer to home, closer to friends and family and alongside people their own age"
Those who wished to purchase a print of the portrait were asked to make a donation to a charity of Dr Absi’s choice. That charity was the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) and the donations amounted to £500.
Every day in the UK, up to six teenagers and young adults (aged 13 to 24) find out they have cancer. Under the age of 16, a teenager is likely to be placed on a paediatric ward. Over 16, a teenager will be placed in an adult ward, often alongside elderly adults. They are treated alongside people they cannot fully relate to, and in these settings are often cared for on a day-to-day basis by doctors and nurses who do not routinely care for teenage cancer patients. Cancer in teenagers and young adults is different. Adolescents often contract some of the most aggressive cancers, made worse by growth spurts, and their symptoms may go untreated or misdiagnosed for some time.
TCT is a charity that helps teenagers and young adults fight cancer; it funds and organises an international conference for professionals on teenage and young adult cancer medicine and gives professionals the chance to learn and share information on adolescent cancer. The charity also sponsors an annual conference for 500 cancer-affected teenagers called Find Your Sense of Tumour, allowing them to share their experiences and learn more about their disease.
The charity’s top priority is building specialised units in NHS hospitals specifically for this group of cancer patients. The money raised by Dr Absi will support the first unit in Wales, at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. Nicknamed ‘The Skypad’, the unit is built on stilts between the paediatric oncology and adult oncology wards and leads the way in adolescent cancer care.
Costing over £3.5 million, this is the most impressive unit the charity has funded. The unit has two, three-bedded bays and two side rooms. Each bed has its own TV, DVD player and light control panel. There is a social area complete with pool table, Nintendo Wii and playstation, a juke box and internet access. A ‘chill-out’ room helps teenagers relax and have friends and family visit them in a comfortable environment. These units provide young people with a chance to meet others in a similar situation, allowing them to build friendships and ways to cope with their disease.
I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma at seven years old, undergoing two years of chemotherapy. I know if I had to have cancer at any time, I would not have it as a teenager or young adult. At this age, you are becoming the person you want to be; studying, building relationships, planning for the future. Some say that the teenage years are the most challenging. Imagine having cancer as well – that is a whole challenge in itself.
TCT is giving teenagers in Wales, and elsewhere in the UK, the chance to to be treated closer to home, closer to friends and family and alongside people their own age. This is a wonderful cause, requiring continued support to ensure that canceraffected teenagers have access to the specialised treatment they need and deserve.
Lara Cowpe, Occupational Therapist, Cardiff & Vale University Health Board
For more information on TCT, visit: www.teenagecancertrust.org