Teenage cancer survivors spread festive season cheer20 December 2013
Group provides support to teenagers undergoing cancer treatment
Friday, 20 December 2013 When 17-year-old Angus Kerr of Cape Town underwent treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a form of blood cancer, earlier this year he found it a tough and very lonely journey. At one point he even told his mother, Teresa Kerr, that he did not think he could carry on.
Now in remission after having been treated at UCT Private Academic Hospital (UCTPAH), Angus is glad that he was able to see the treatment through. “It was challenging and I sometimes wished I had the support of someone my own age who could understand what I was going through and with whom I could share what I was experiencing,” says Angus.
For this reason Angus joined forces with five other teenage cancer survivors to form the Angus Warriors. The group brings together younger children and teenagers in Cape Town who have been diagnosed with cancer so that they can support one another in fighting their battle.
“As cancer survivors we can relate to what other young people who have been diagnosed with cancer are going through. We assist them by giving them advice and guide them while they undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Younger children and teenagers who undergo treatment often feel lonely, afraid and helpless and this is where the Angus Warriors want to play a positive and supportive role in their lives,” says Angus.
Teresa adds that there are few support structures in Cape Town to assist teens with cancer. “Angus felt this keenly during much of his treatment. We tend to think that teenagers are more resilient than younger children but in fact cancer is difficult and frightening for them too,” says Teresa.
While undergoing treatment, Angus eventually met another teenager, 17-year-old Yazid Muller, who had been treated for leukaemia and was in remission. “Angus and Yazid hit it off immediately and spoke for hours. They were like brothers laughing together and discussing their experiences. Afterwards it was as if a weight had lifted from Angus and he found new strength. Angus and Yazid decided then and there to form a support organisation especially for teens,” says Teresa.
During the following months Angus began getting in touch with other teens whose lives had been affected by cancer. He met 14-year-old Kyle Brown who is in remission from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, 16-year-old Kayla Leader who is in remission after having been treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma and 19-year-old Amber-Jade Engledow who was diagnosed with lymphoma in August this year and is still in treatment. These three, together with Angus and Yazid, now form the Angus Warriors.
Last Saturday, 14 December, the Angus Warriors, together with 16-year-old Robyn van Rooyen, who is in remission from Osteosarcoma bone cancer, visited youngsters at Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital, Netcare Kuils River Hospital, Netcare N1 City Hospital, UCTPAH and Groote Schuur Hospital, handing out gifts that they had collected in a festive season drive.
“It was a very moving day for the Warriors,” notes Teresa. “The children who were visited were grateful for the gifts but I think they were especially pleased to know that they are not alone. The Warriors, who were wearing their special ’Believe’ hoodies, met a three-year-old girl with bone marrow cancer who received a teddy bear much larger than her. They found it heart-warming to be able to bring smiles to the young people at all the different hospitals,” explains Teresa
The Angus Warriors collected no fewer than 90 gifts themselves, appealing to friends, family members, members of the public and companies to assist with the drive. They decided that the festive season gifts would not just be for cancer sufferers, but all youngsters who were unfortunate enough to find themselves in hospital over the holidays as a result of illness. Teresa thanked everyone for giving so freely to the drive, particularly the Milnerton Presbyterian Church, False Bay Underwater Club and Daniel Hoffmann of Luksbrands.
Lieselle Shield, general manager of UCT Private Academic Hospital, says each of the young Angus Warrior survivors is exceptionally brave and a hero in their own right. “Young cancer victims particularly need support and it is wonderful that these five dynamic individuals have come together on their own initiative in order to provide this support. We thank them for bringing a little festive season light into the lives of our young patients.
Those who wish to get in touch with the Angus Warriors or who would like to make a donation to support the group’s activities can find them on Facebook: “Angus Warriors Teens with Cancer”.