'I'm not the only one' says young cancer survivor from Bristol

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A 21-year-old from Bristol, who is living through and beyond cancer, feels like a weight has been lifted off of her shoulders after sailing with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust from the Isle of Wight.

There are still opportunities for other young people from across the South West to get onboard this summer as the charity continues to set sail for 2024.

Izzy Maciver was diagnosed with a soft tissue tumour at the age of six. After undergoing radiotherapy, breath therapy, surgery and chemotherapy, she set sail with the charity to relax and talk to other young people, who had been through similar experiences.

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Izzy said: “I didn’t really want to talk about it very much. It’s done, it’s over with, it’s happened, I’m better now and I’m not going to talk about it. I’m not going to deal with the idea of the after-effects, and I’m just going to live without the idea of it.

Izzy enjoying sailing with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust.Izzy enjoying sailing with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust.
Izzy enjoying sailing with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust.

“It’s something you can’t talk about with other people, because it’s either too depressing, or you’re taking it too lightly or other people don’t know how to respond, because it’s a hard thing to deal with. You have more problems if you discuss it with other people.

“I was a lot quieter, but now I’ve been on these trips, I’ve been able to speak more about it with other people. Suddenly, I’m not the only one.”

The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust takes young people aged 8-24 on sailing and outdoor adventures to inspire them to believe in a brighter future living through and beyond cancer.

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Cancer can have a big impact on a young person’s mental wellbeing beyond treatment, and what happens afterwards can often be as difficult as treatment itself - if not even more so. This is not understood or talked about as much as it should be, leading young people to feel like they are the only one finding life after cancer just as hard.

Izzy enjoying sailing with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer TrustIzzy enjoying sailing with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust
Izzy enjoying sailing with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust

Once their treatment has finished, they are often left with fewer friends and struggle with relationships, their education suffers, they miss out on work experience, and they develop body image issues. Late effects of being diagnosed young include infertility, extreme fatigue, osteoporosis, thyroid problems, and hearing or vision loss.

Adjusting to this ‘new normal’ can be extremely difficult, which is why when treatment ends, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust’s work begins.

Through the charity’s sailing and outdoor adventures, young people gain a new sense of purpose and self-worth, rediscover their independence, and feel optimistic about what comes next in life. They realise what they are capable of, stop feeling like ‘the only one’, and their mental wellbeing improves.

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They start to re-establish their purpose and place in the world and believe in a brighter future.

Reflecting on her mental wellbeing and the importance of support after treatment, she added: “I struggle a lot with mental health issues. I have depression, but with other people, you have that sense of closeness and a lot of the stress that you’ve built up over the years is released.

“Being on the boat, it’s like you’re in a different world. You’re no longer in the real world, but a little world in a boat with the rest of your crew and the other boats. You can just relax. The world slows down for you.

“I don’t have to be me for a bit. I can be whoever I want to be.”

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Founder and Patron of the charity, Dame Ellen MacArthur, said: “We see it time and time again. Young people arrive anxious and isolated. But they leave feeling part of something, accepted, independent, and optimistic.

“We are only able to support as many young people as we do thanks to the players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Because of them, thousands of young lives have been transformed after cancer through life-changing sailing and outdoor activity adventures.

“This summer we will welcome hundreds of young people from right across the UK who need post-treatment support. We will be there for them and they will believe in a brighter future.”

The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust is there for anyone looking for support, no matter how long off treatment they are. Visit ellenmacarthurcancertrust.org or follow @emctrust on social media.

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