Laura – Survivor & Volunteer
I stumbled upon the Youth Cancer Trust charity two years ago when I moved to Bournemouth for my first job. Having grown up in a village community, I thought that volunteering would be a great break from work and maybe help me to find my feet in a new community! Working at the Youth Cancer Trust’s Tracy Ann House I found what was missing. Tracy Ann House, situated just off the Bournemouth coast, hosts weekly holidays, all year round, for 14 to 30 year olds who have or have had cancer. All youngsters have the option of bringing a friend or sibling with them to share the fun and memories. Brenda Clark, the founder of the charity, and her brother in law Jim Keating host the week providing activities, entertainment, and parental love. Known to some as surrogate parents, Jim and Brenda bring out the best in all the youngsters allowing them to try new things, make new friends and regain lost confidence.
Normality, confidence, sense of self and fun can all get lost in the turbulence of having cancer and even years down the line when someone has recovered. I know this because I have had two separate episodes of cancer, one at nine and another at twenty one. Now at twenty five it is great to be part of this organisation that really does have the patients at the heart of every decision. There is a definite family feel to this special place and when you enter you feel encompassed in a bubble of security, love and warmth.
With a maximum of eight in each group, no one goes unnoticed and all get the chance to shine in the safety of a small group. In the week there are opportunities to go horse riding, go-karting, try water sports and sailing. At the house youngsters can choose to stay in, watch DVDs, play pool or just chill out in the magical garden or beach hut, which is situated on a beautiful beach 5 minutes away. A new therapy suite now occupies the top of the garden so new holiday visitors or returning veterans can enjoy some pampering!
Groups visit from all over the UK and Republic of Ireland. Often they are a group of friends from a hospital but if you are like me and have been treated in a small local hospital you don’t always meet anyone going through a similar experience. Not to worry, if you want to come down for a holiday you will be put with others of a similar age and can also bring a friend for company. The beauty of this organisation is that it is targeting a group of individuals that often get forgotten – teenagers and young adults. Life doesn’t always carry on as normal after diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Sadly, for some the holiday may be one of their last; for others treatment has been successful but the individual is left facing the turmoils of side effects and late effects. A holiday away with others who understand can be a refreshing break that makes life easier when you return home – an important part of rehabilitation.
These holidays are immensely popular: in 2010 there will be over 240 young people taking advantage of what’s on offer. Consequently there are now plans to expand and move house. If you or anyone you know is aged 14 to 30, and has cancer or is in remission (for up to 5 years) and would like a fun packed FREE holiday, then contact YCT at email: firstname.lastname@example.org