Bringing a little festive cheer to young people with cancer this Christmas

Friends of the Cancer Centre is hoping to spread a little festive cheer this Christmas with gifts for teenagers and young adults with cancer across Northern Ireland.

Every year, Friends of the Cancer Centre gives gifts to patients spending Christmas Day in the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre in Belfast, but this year the charity is extending this tradition to include teenagers and young adults with cancer right across Northern Ireland.  As many of us get ready for the festive period, people with cancer will be celebrating Christmas in the midst of treatment and some may spend Christmas Day in hospital.  Whilst staff at the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre in Belfast endeavour to get as many patients as they can home for Christmas Day, not all patients are well enough and many can’t take a break from their treatment.   To help bring a little cheer on Christmas morning, the charity will be giving a small gift to all those spending the special day in hospital.  Recognising that this time of year can also be particularly difficult for teenagers and young adults with cancer, with many feeling unwell as a result of their treatment and unable to socialise with family and friends, the charity is extending its gift giving tradition to ensure that these young people have a special Christmas. 

Explaining why this is such an important part of the charity’s work, Colleen Shaw, chief executive of Friends of the Cancer Centre, said:

“Christmas is a really special time of year, but for many people with cancer Christmas Day will be spent in hospital undergoing treatment.  Whilst we know nothing will make this time easier, we still want to try to make this time a little brighter and that’s why we will be buying a small gift for those spending Christmas Day in the Cancer Centre.    

“This year we wanted to extend this to include more teenage and young adult patients, as we know the past year has been incredibly difficult for them as they faced a cancer diagnosis and treatment in the midst of a pandemic. We are delighted to be working with the nursing teams at the other cancer units at Antrim Area Hospital, Craigavon Area Hospital, the North West Cancer Centre and the Ulster Hospital to ensure that young patients being treated outside of Belfast also get a little something from Friends of the Cancer Centre.  In total the charity will give a gift to 167 people across Northern Ireland this Christmas, letting each of them know that we are thinking of them and their families.”

For 35 years, Friends of the Cancer Centre has been dedicated to making a real and meaningful difference to cancer patients and their families across Northern Ireland.  In particular, the charity is committed to ensuring young people have the care and support they need by funding vital staff and support services to help them through a difficult time.   As well as providing young people with gifts at Christmas, Friends of the Cancer Centre also supports teenagers and young adults by funding two teenage and young adult clinical nurse specialists, who are on hand to support each patient and their wider family through their diagnosis, treatment and beyond.  Last year, despite the challenges of the pandemic, the charity also funded a social worker dedicated to supporting young people with cancer aged 16- 24 years old.   

Highlighting how important a small gesture will be to young people at this time of year, Renée Reid, Friends of the Cancer Centre’s teenage and young adult clinical nurse specialist and lead nurse for the regional teenage and young adult service, said:

“Christmas can be a really difficult time of year for many people, but for our young patients it can be particularly challenging.  Many of our patients will be undergoing treatment over Christmas, with some possibly spending Christmas Day in hospital, with many others feeling unwell and unable to enjoy this time of year in the way that they, and their peers, previously have.

“It can be quite a lonely and anxious time for our young people, and it has been made even more difficult this year in light of COVID-19.  To be able to show these young people that we are thinking of them by giving them a gift is really important.  It might only be a small gesture, but it has a big impact and I am extremely grateful to Friends of the Cancer Centre, and everyone who supports its work, for their generosity as it is going to put a smile on many young people’s faces this Christmas.”

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