St Albans cancer survivor enjoys post-lockdown lift by the sea
- Credit: Ellen MacArthur Trust
A young St Albans cancer survivor has enjoyed five days of sailing, high ropes, archery and more by the seaside as a post-lockdown treat.
Jonathan Light, 20, was 11 when was he diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and underwent more than three years of treatment. He is now living through and beyond cancer.
He was among seven young people from across the UK who spent a week at Bradwell Essex Outdoors, as the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust continues bringing young people together, having been off the water during 2020.
“It’s been a privilege to do this again,” he said afterwards.
The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust inspires young people aged eight to 24 to believe in a brighter future living through and beyond cancer.
For many young people, picking up where they left off before their diagnosis isn’t possible, and when their treatment ends, the trust’s work begins.
The isolation, loneliness and anxiety experienced by young people with cancer has been massively amplified by Covid and lockdown.
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Jonathan, who is now studying Biochemistry and Genetics at the University of Sheffield, first sailed with the Trust in 2014 and this was his sixth time away with the charity.
He explained: “I haven't really talked about this stuff, about treatment for a long while. I’m living at uni and people don't know about it when I talk to them.
“So, I was just waiting for this trip; just to go back into that world, because it's a real community.
"Everywhere else in your life cancer is a rare thing; it's really unusual, so you're really niche. But with the trust it’s like the commonest thing in the world. Everybody's had it. To be able to come back and talk about it without people being awkward is good.
“I didn't meet many new people in lockdown, so making some new friends this week always makes a difference, especially people who have shared experiences to you.
"It's a real confidence boost to come to the trust and know I can interact with people, people are the same as me, people are interested in what I have to say, and everyone has their own story.”
The trust says through its sailing and outdoor activities young people meet others who have had similar experiences - often for the first time - rediscover independence away from home, experience an increased sense of purpose and self-worth, and begin to realise what they are capable of again. Most importantly they stop feeling like the ‘only one’.
The young people are inspired to believe in a brighter future as they feel valued, accepted, optimistic and independent. They can start to re-establish their place in the world by getting back into education or employment and reconnecting with their friends and families.
Jonathan added: “My first time sailing with the trust was the first time I’d been on any trips with other people that had cancer. I was in school, where there's nobody like you at all and you don't really bring it up.
“To be on that sailing trip, I was astounded. It was amazing how many people were so happy to talk about it, how therapeutic it was to go and laugh about it with people. I've always loved being on the water, on the boats and I’ve been proper happy. It's really unique.”
The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust was founded by the record-breaking round-the-world yachtswoman in 2003. It is there for anyone who is struggling or could simply do with a bit of support, however long off treatment they are. Visit ellenmacarthurcancertrust.org or follow @emctrust on social media.