"I'm proof of the difference your support can make."

A cancer diagnosis at any age can be devastating, but a cancer diagnosis when you’re young can be life changing.

As he was preparing to sit his final year exams at Ulster University’s Magee Campus, 23 year old Shaun Haw from Mayobridge became unwell.  He was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and his hopes of completing his degree were put on hold.  A year on, Shaun is now in remission and he credits his progress to the wonderful care and support he received on ward 10 north at Belfast City Hospital and the support of the Teenage and Young Adult (TYA) Service which has been supported by Friends of the Cancer Centre since 2013.

Recalling the days after diagnosis, Shaun says: “It was a very tough time.  I went from being a normal, healthy young man, playing football and preparing for my final exams to facing a leukaemia diagnosis.”

Between June 2016 and January 2017, Shaun underwent four rounds of intensive chemotherapy. 

“I had hoped I would be able to complete my exams and coursework in hospital but it became clear this wouldn’t be possible. Treatment was intense, but the staff on ward 10 and at the Cancer Centre were incredible.  I also had the support of Friends of the Cancer Centre’s clinical nurse specialist for teenagers and young adults, Renee and the TYA team who made a real difference to my time in hospital.”   

The TYA Service is a vital source of age appropriate clinical and psychosocial support for teenagers and young adults with cancer.  Friends of the Cancer Centre has been supporting this vital service for 4 years, funding Northern Ireland’s first and only clinical nurse specialist for young people, Renee Reid.  Now, working in partnership with other charities, Friends of the Cancer Centre is proudly supporting the expansion of the service by funding an additional nurse for our young patients, Rachael Quinn.  This will now mean more young people will be able to benefit from the vital support offered by the whole TYA team.  Shaun said:

“As someone who has benefitted from the TYA Service, I’m really delighted that more young people like me will now be able to get the care and support they need from nurses like Rachael and Renee.”

Shaun is now getting back to life outside treatment and in July he proudly graduated with a BSc Hons in Accounting and Advertising from Ulster University. 

“I said that I would complete my degree no matter what and i got a solid 2:1, of which I’m very proud.  I hope my experience can be a positive example to other young people with cancer.  It can be a dark time and you sometimes feel like you are never going to get through it, but you do.  I’m living proof that there is life with and after cancer.

“Friends of the Cancer Centre is an incredible local charity and as a patient, young or old, you can see the difference it makes every day.  I couldn’t have got this far without the charity’s support.  Thank you to everyone who supports Friends of the Cancer Centre as I’m proof of the difference your support makes.”

Read Shaun’s story in the latest edition of our newsletter Power of Friends and the other ways your support is making a difference to people affected by cancer in Northern Ireland.


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