By Patty Lapitan
Like a lot of people, I hadn’t managed to be very productive these past 5 months of lockdown. In fact, I could probably estimate that my time has been spent 70% Netflix and 30% trying (but failing) to study. If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m a massive procrastinator and I had been trying to get out and start running all Summer but never managed to start. That was, until, I came across a fundraising challenge set by Teenage Cancer Trust - to run 100 miles in August.
Why did I decide to do it? By luck, I suppose, but I guess it all worked out! As a medical student, people always ask, "What do you want to specialise in?" Even though I never quite knew why, that answer was always oncology for me. My biggest motivation for Medicine has always been to be able to embody my faith in what I do, and there's something inspiring about oncology that would let me do just that - where compassion and care is even more important, for patients facing the worst times of their lives. In the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) online summer school, there was a session on paediatric sub-specialties. One of the doctors was a paediatric oncologist and when she spoke about her work and the children she works with, it got me very excited for the future career I could pursue, but also very empathetic. A day or two after this session, I stumbled across an advert promoting this challenge on Facebook and as cliché as it sounds, I thought .. It'll be over 10 years before I'd get to help those patients facing cancer as a doctor, but I can strive to support those that are able to help them right now.
After a month of endless stretching, cold showers, various aches and pains and all the carbs, in total I managed to run 100.35 miles and raised £740 for Teenage Cancer Trust. I really enjoyed the whole experience, even if it was taxing at times. Some days it would be a struggle to walk 1km let alone run 5k - it was a challenge, but I love to challenge myself. It’s always daunting trying something new, and running was definitely new for me, but rewarding all the same. I’ve never been a very active or fit person, so if you told me pre-pandemic that I’d be running 10km every other day for 31 days, I’d probably think you were insane. If the past month taught me anything, it’s that you really can achieve what you set your mind to, if you learn to love what you are doing. Whether it’s to run 100 miles in a month, or change a small habit, you’ll surprise yourself with your own potential.
Throughout the month, I learnt a lot about the work Teenage Cancer Trust do for young people facing cancer and I am beyond honoured to have supported them in this way. I have been able to educate my friends and peers about them too and I’m going to take this opportunity to do the same thing. Did you know Teenage Cancer Trust are the only UK charity dedicated to providing specialist nursing care and support for young people facing cancer? They have 28 specialist adolescent cancer units across NHS hospitals in the UK led by healthcare staff specifically trained to understand what it’s like to have cancer at a young age. The charity began with a small group of women who empathised with the isolation faced by a 13 year old boy with cancer being treated amongst adults twice his age on an oncology ward. From then on, they became committed to providing a teenage environment to help support other young people with cancer and raised £330,000 to open their first specialist adolescent cancer unit at Middlesex hospital in 1990. Young person first, cancer patient second. Coronavirus has hit young people with cancer hard and disrupted Teenage Cancer Trust services, but they are doing everything they can to adapt. They're keeping young people with cancer connected – with their specialist nurses, their youth support teams, and each other. They're making sure young people still get one-to-one emotional support with regular texts, video chats and virtual groups.
And they're still getting young people through fear, isolation and the toughest time of their lives, every day.
Whatever the crisis, they won’t stop – can’t stop – being there for young people with cancer.