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10 December 2014

Programme leaves legacy for young people diagnosed with cancer in the South West

Last week, a special event was held in Bristol to mark the culmination of a three year programme called 'On Target.' Funded by Macmillan Cancer Support and delivered by University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, 'On Target' was designed to address the aftercare needs of teenagers and young adults (TYA) with cancer in the South West. The work has consulted and benefited people affected by cancer in Cornwall, Devon, Avon, Somerset, Wiltshire and parts of Gloucestershire.

Programme Director, Professor Mike Stevens welcomed an audience full of clinicians and health professionals, service users, contributors and potential future partner organisations to the event. Together with colleagues, Mike demonstrated the process from research and scoping, through to ideas and implementation.

Professor Stevens explained; "The aim of 'On Target' was to support young people towards the achievement of a life as it would have been lived without the intrusion of cancer, or as the patient decides to recreate it after experiencing the impact of cancer and its treatment.

"The key thing was not to assume anything but to talk directly to TYAs about their experiences. After coming away with thousands of findings, we worked to group these findings into clusters, and 'co-created' some high impact, achievable interventions."

These interventions include self help websites tailored by and for this age group, with particular input from a designer and patient based in Cheltenham, a Macmillan volunteer-led work mentoring programme based in Bristol, and health and wellbeing events in Redruth and near Bristol, to name a few.

Pete Jerrett, 19 years old from Plymouth, has been heavily involved with the programme since being diagnosed with Leukaemia. He too spoke at the event, saying; "I didn't think I'd be in a position to help anyone, so it was great to be a part of something that was helping others whilst still helping me. There seems to be a lot out there for adults with cancer and for children, for not for this age group. We were able to make sure the information was suited to our age group, in the way we'd like to be spoken to."

The event itself heralded the programme drawing to a close, and sought to ensure the interventions and recommendations will be embedded firmly within the treatment pathway for TYAs.

Maggie Crowe, Macmillan Development Manager added; "It was a fantastic opportunity for Macmillan to work in partnership with the existing TYA team and the other charities on this innovative project, and they had great vision. It really is about changing the culture, and need to ensure that after the programme has finished, TYAs living with and beyond cancer will have a different, improved experience because of this work."

A number of discussions were initiated regarding the future of the work, and the team are hopeful that the legacy of the project will continue to have an effect in Bristol and the South West and beyond, for teenagers and young adults with cancer and other illnesses alike.

Macmillan Cancer Support is only able to fund projects like this thanks to the generosity of those who raise funds and give their time to help. If you'd like to support Macmillan in your local area, please contact Macmillan on 0300 1000 200.

Cancer is the toughest fight many people will ever face, and the feelings of isolation and loneliness that so many people experience make it even harder. But you don't have to go through it alone. If you have any worries or questions about cancer, visit or call Macmillan free on 0808 808 00 00.