Cancer coming back plays on my mind all the time, but being at YCT helps me forget about it for a while. I don’t have to explain anything about my cancer here, everyone understands.
Says Laura Howe, aged 21, from Middlesbrough.
Laura is staying at YCT for a holiday with a group made up of friends she met during treatment at The Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.
Laura was first diagnosed aged 7, with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, which is a cancer of blood forming cells in the bone marrow. Abnormal immature white blood cells (Lymphoblasts) fill the bone marrow and spill into the bloodstream.
“I was only 7 so I didn’t really understand what was going on, at that age you just get on with it. I had 2 years of Chemotherapy and then went into a years’ remission.
Laura then relapsed when she was 10 and underwent a further 10 months of treatment.
“I had a bone marrow transplant donated by my little brother Joe. He was only 3 at the time, so it was only later that he realised what he had done for me – it has given us a really strong bond. He’s 12 now and I love him to bits.
“Unfortunately I relapsed again when I was 13 and had another 3 years and 18 months of chemotherapy. It has been 4 years now since I finished my treatment and I live with the constant worry that I might relapse again. Every time I feel slightly poorly I really worry it’s come back
Laura was last at YCT in 2006 with her best friend Sharlene. “I met Sharlene at the Sense of Tumour conference at Centre Parcs in 2002. She was supposed to be coming with me to YCT this time but she sadly passed away in April this year. It feels really strange being here without her. I really miss her. She had the same cancer as me.
“We went through so much together. I still speak to her mum and family, we are really close.
The YCT group this week consists of all girls apart from Rupert. “We have had such a laugh. We have a very different kind of friendship than normal school friends – we understand each other more.
“I was lucky I didn’t miss out on too much school, apart from when I had the transplant in year 7. I was determined not to miss out on normal stuff.
Laura took her GSCE’s whilst in treatment and passed all 10 of them. She is at Leeds University studying Pediatric nursing.
“I really want to work with children because of what I have been through. I only have 4 months to go until I finish my course.
Laura wants to work in Newcastle where they are building a children’s and Teenage Cancer Unit.
“It’s been great being with everyone this week; it gives us a chance to all catch up with each other’s news.
“The weather’s been a bit crap but we got to do everything, Water sports is my favourite activity I love skiing!
“The garden, here at YCT, has improved so much – it used to be an unusable grass slope. It’s lovely and it’s a good place to hang out in.
The Tracy Ann House ‘Garden of New Beginnings’ was funded a few years ago by Zurich’s’ Kid2Care4 scheme. Since then Brenda Clark, founder of the Youth Cancer Trust, has become a keen gardener and has created a beautiful place for the youngsters to enjoy. Everywhere you look you will find something special, a Buddhist wind chime, little fairies, pots of colour. At night the garden lights up magically, with solar powered lights.
During Laura’s stay a new addition was introduced to the garden pond. Laura launched a fun, fake Coy carp.
“We couldn’t afford a real Coy Carp so we bought a pretend one and named it Laura!” Said Brenda Clark
When I asked Laura if she will be back to YCT again, she said
“I would love to come back again. We had a nightmare journey getting her, we didn’t arrive until late on Monday night – but it was worth it. Jim (Brenda’s brother in law, who helps run the YCT) and Brenda are so amazing. You don’t have to ask for anything, it’s as if they read your mind… If you need anything you turn around and there it is!
The Youth Cancer Trust would like to thank Laura for allowing us to write and publish this feature