This week a couple of us had the pleasure of getting out of the office and hospital to spend time on a site visit researching the venue we have chosen for our first ever Teenage Weekend at St Mark’s College. Our first foray into the world of residential breaks for younger members affected by retinoblastoma marks a huge milestone in the support services we are now able to offer.

Over the past year or so, thanks to additional funding from our corporate partners, our support service has been able to expand beyond the hospital clinics so that people living with the after-effects of treatment for childhood eye cancer are no longer left feeling isolated once their regular hospital appointments begin to tail off.

The challenge
Teenage years can be the most difficult of our lives – starting a new school or college, getting along with peers, finding our way with relationships, managing new found freedoms and all the time facing pressures of education too.

Throw into the mix a visual impairment and having an artificial eye and it is no wonder some of our younger members struggle to find the confidence they desperately need to help them through life’s challenges.

Lessening the negative impact
We have spent many hours consulting members to find out more about their needs and how CHECT can help them provide a unique support service so their experience of retinoblastoma does not go on to have a negative impact throughout their life. Some of our senior members have revealed the devastating impact bullying has had on them in the past – having a detrimental impact on key life choices, their careers and even their long-term relationships. Some have spent their life hiding away their artificial eye for fear of attracting negative comments – going to the lengths of physically masking it from view.

The solution
CHECT is determined to do all it can to make the future brighter for children affected by eye cancer which is why we have identified four key projects to enable us to reach the charity’s goals.

1. More support time – We have pledged to increase the support staff time so that they can be on hand to provide a 1:1 service when teenagers need it most. We have just recruited a development manager to enable us to increase our work in the community.

2. Teenage Weekend – we’re planning an inspirational confidence-building experience in July this year where young members can have the opportunity to share experiences and gain support from one another. We’ve even enlisted the help of Olympic cyclist Bryan Steel who’s planned some great challenges for everyone to get stuck into.

3. JTV film project – We’ve teamed up with JTV cancer support to offer teenagers the opportunity to get involved in producing a programme of around a dozen short video diaries, which will act not only as a cathartic exercise to benefit themselves, but will also serve as a valuable peer support tool for many years to come.

4. Psychological support – We’re working hard to increase our support fund so that we are able to help teenagers access private counselling and psychology services as quickly as possible when the need arises.

These projects alone show just how far CHECT has grown over the past few years and with your support we can ensure that growth continues so that retinoblastoma need not have a negative impact for life.

Get involved
If you know of a company looking to make a real difference to the lives of people affected by cancer we are inviting sponsors for each of the projects above and would love to hear from you. Further information can be found here.

If you would like to personally fundraise for CHECT we have a range of challenges and ideas to suit all interests. Further information can be found here.

If you are a teenager affected by retinoblastoma interested in benefitting from any of the services mentioned above please get in touch with our support worker Lesley Geen by calling 0207 377 5578 or email lesley.geen@chect.org.uk

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