16 year old Melissa from Walthamstowe, who has enjoyed a YCT holiday 3 times over the past few years, has agreed to be the Youth Cancer Trust official youth spokesperson and YCT ambassador.
Her role will be to do press interviews and attend conferences on behalf of YCT to spread the word about the services the charity provides to young people with cancer.
The first conference Melissa will attend is the ‘Sense of Tumour’ conference organized by the Teenage Cancer Trust. The conference brings together young people with cancer for an informative and fun weekend at Centre Parcs.
“It has more impact for a young person to speak about YCT to their peers as they understand each other and know what it’s like to be youngster with cancer. Melissa is a lovely young lady with a lot of energy to give. We are so happy for her to take on this role. Says Brenda Clark of YCT
Melissa says “I didn’t know that young people even got cancer! Now I do I think all young people should know what it’s like and that there is Youth Cancer Trust here to help you through the bad days and give you something to look forward to after you come out of hospital. I am really excited about being able to give something back. I will be able to speak to others my own age and tell them about YCT and how much it helps you get your confidence back and feel normal again.
Melissa was diagnosed at the age of 14 with cancer of the small bowel.
“I was so ill, my stomach was swollen and I was in so much pain. At first the doctors treated me for everything from constipation, IBS to Appendicitis. They even thought I might be pregnant!”
“It was difficult as I kept seeing different doctors and no-one seemed to talk to each other. I hadn’t been to the doctors for years so I couldn’t understand why they didn’t seem to take me seriously. When I was eventually diagnosed they had to drain off 4 litres of excess fluid and remove a tumour on my small bowel. I lost so much blood I had to be put in intensive care.
“I didn’t even know what cancer was…”
“They kept me in hospital after the operation and I went straight into treatment of 3 months of Chemotherapy.
“After I came out of hospital my emotions ran riot. I kept crying all the time and ended up having to see a psychologist to help me though it.
“It was my aunt who told me about YCT. She saw one of the posters whilst I was in hospital and told me you can go to Bournemouth!!
“It looked fab and I couldn’t wait to come to just get away and have some fun. My confidence was shattered and I really felt like I needed a lift. My brother came with me the first time and we had such a great time. Before I was ill we used to be really argumentative but now we get on great. My mum also really noticed my new found independence – she is now my best friend (which my friends think is really funny!) She’s been through so much with me; it’s brought us all closer together, as a family.
“When I first came to YCT I didn’t want to talk about cancer as I felt so afraid that the others might be dying and I didn’t want to hear about it. No one made me feel like I had to talk about it, which was great. I felt like at last it wasn’t stupid to have these feelings. If I felt sad it didn’t matter as everyone understood.
“Going on the activities, such as horse riding really helped me feel confident. I’ve never done activities like the ones here at YCT so it gave me such a boost. Made me feel I could cope with things again.
“I also found it inspiring to meet others, who are recovering and rebuilding their lives.
“I went back to school again in September 2006. I decided I was going to go in without my wig, brave I know but I felt it was better to face the comments if there was going to be any.
“Tracy Ann House is wicked – big but cosy. You feel totally at home. I love sharing a room with my friend, it’s such fun talking at night.
Melissa has come on holiday with her friend 19 year old Lauren
It’s also great to meet the companions – they get to understand much more about cancer by meeting each other. The companions benefit to be able to speak to each other about what it’s like for them… we all get a lot out of it… the holidays brings you closer and it makes you feel together as a group realising you’ve been through a lot and so young.
‘I’d like to see much more information in schools about teenage cancer and although it’s rare it can still happen. I think if I had known about it before I was ill it wouldn’t have been so scary.
Prior to coming on holiday at YCT Melissa had just finished her exams with the intent to going to college to study media
“Looking forward to YCT helped me get through my exams. Because of my experiences I really want to help others using my skills. I’d like to one day work fulltime for a charity like YCT to help them get their message out to all young people with cancer via teen magazines and on the net.
“Some people need to forget they had cancer. I want to use my cancer illness to put something back.
“I feel I really understand what it’s like to be growing up and gaining independence then having it taken away from you so abruptly – I felt like I was a baby again when all my friends where moving on with their lives.
“YCT has helped me so much, now I want to help them in anyway I can by doing something positive rather than dwelling on the negatives of having cancer.”
The Youth Cancer Trust would like to thank Melissa for taking up this role for the charity.