Young People Share their experiences of cancer in powerful performance

 In News, Young people
Eight young people, aged 18-24, from Northern Ireland, who have all been affected by cancer, joined forces to produce their very own play telling their experiences, entitled ‘Beyond the Label’.

The play was performed exclusively in front of healthcare professionals, charities and donors at Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast on Friday, 1 March, following a performance for friends and family on Saturday 23 February.

Beyond the Label

‘Beyond the Label’ was brought together by eight young people who attended Teenage Cancer Trust’s Find Your Sense of Tumour conference in 2017, where they watched a performance that inspired them to get together and tell their own stories.

The play lifts the lid on what it’s like to be diagnosed with cancer at a young age, hoping to encourage better understanding for families, friends and even the healthcare professionals that support them. The young people are asking to be seen as people beyond any labels people may place on them due to their cancer diagnosis.

As well as acting, the group gained experience in stage management, sound and lighting and photography. As specialist treatment can last many months or even years, young people can often miss out on education or may be faced with a gap in their career. This performance gives them a chance to address some of those skills gaps for their futures.

Cancer Fund for Children Beyond the LabelThe project and the young people involved were supported by the five charities and five health and social care trusts that make up the Northern Ireland Teenage and Young Adult (TYA) Cancer Service. The charities involved were: Cancer Fund for Children, CLIC Sargent, Friends of the Cancer Centre, Teenage Cancer Trust and The Children’s Cancer Unit Charity. ArtsCare also provided funding for the project, as well as drama facilitator Andrea Dougherty, who supported the young people through the scripting and performing process.

Annaliese Laffan, 23, from Cushendall, County Antrim, was diagnosed with cancer after falling off a jeep and suffering a brain injury while in Australia on a gap year in 2015. She said,

“Being part of this has helped me deal with my emotions and also helped my confidence. I wanted to do this to help my family and friends understand what I’ve went through on my own and what I still go through daily.”

More than a Cancer Diagnosis

Helen Patterson, our Cancer Support Specialist said,

“Listening to young people, helping make their dreams come to life and supporting them to move on from some of the most challenging times is at the heart of Cancer Fund for Children’s work. It has been incredible to see this group of young people take so much ownership over this project, and to see their strength and determination to deliver a powerful message that they are more than a cancer diagnosis.”

Simon Darby, CLIC Sargent Young Person’s Social Worker based at Belfast City Hospital, said,

“It has been an absolute pleasure to be part of this drama group, being involved in some of the discussions about the ‘labels’ young people get having had cancer, turning these discussions into a script and watching them develop as young people in survivorship from cancer. They want people to see beyond the labels and I hope this show helps them to do just that.””

Lisa Callendar, TYA Clinical Nurse Specialist SEHSCT funded by Teenage Cancer Trust, said,

“The drama group has been such a positive experience for the young people, allowing them an innovative way to express their thoughts and feelings from diagnosis onwards.”

Renée Reid, Friends of the Cancer Centre’s Clinical Nurse Specialist for Teenagers and Young Adults, said,

“The drama group has given our young people the opportunity to process and portray their feelings and emotions in an innovative way.  It has been incredibly beneficial and it is wonderful to see the impact it has had on their confidence.”

Supporting Teenagers and Young Adults

Our aim is to empower, connect and strengthen young people through cancer and beyond.  Find out more about the support we offer here.

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