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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 00:27 GMT 01:27 UK
How teenagers deal with cancer
Sam had just started university when he was faced with a battle against cancer
Sam had just started university when he was faced with a battle against cancer
Teenagers make up a tiny proportion of patients diagnosed with cancer but they need specially tailored care.

The BBC documentary 'Living With Cancer' looks at how some of them cope.

Cancer is a hard word to hear at any age, but it can be especially difficult for the 600 teenagers who are diagnosed with the disease each year.

Their school and family life is disrupted, and they have to face side-effects ranging from hair loss to infertility or limb amputation.

Parents have to deal with both their own worries and the trauma their children are going through.

The Middlesex Hospital, part of the University College London Hospital NHS Trust, was the first in the UK to open a ward devoted to caring for teenagers for cancer.

Tom Dore
Tom Dore: Diagnosed with leg cancer at 17
Sam Bennett, 19, is being treated there - he was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer in his arm just after he had started university.

It has now spread to his lungs and his pelvis.

He has had six cycles of chemotherapy to tackle his tumours

He says as he walks into the ward for treatment, he feels like a boxer: "You think, 'come on then, do your worst'.

"Going in for the first time, I remember a girl of 14 walking past me with a bald head and with a drip. And I just thought cancer victims looked like aliens. I couldn't believe I was going to be one of them.

I just thought cancer victims looked like aliens. I couldn't believe I was going to be one of them

Sam Bennett
"Now they just look like normal people and they just happen to be having chemotherapy and have no hair."

Chemotherapy to tackle growing tumours in his lungs was successful, and the tumour in his arm was surgically removed.

His final stage of treatment was a course of higher dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant to replace his damaged immune system.

"It's like being told 'congratulations', you've reached the final fence. It might be the highest and the hardest but it's the last one and after that things can only get better," he said.

The treatment was successful, and Sam is now back at university.

'Waiting is worst'

Tom Dore, 21, was diagnosed with leg cancer at the age of 17.

He had to have two operations and chemotherapy.

Tom, a builder from Cheltenham, said: "The remission is the worst part, because you're waiting for the cancer to come back."

It did come back in his lung, and he had to have a second operation.

Tom was distraught: "The life I'm having is a little bit longer than I should get, but isn't any better. I'm just passing time between hospital appointments."

But after counselling, Tom felt more positive.

He had the second operation and his cancer is in remission.

Decision to die

Fifteen-year-old Jonathan Woolf was diagnosed with soft tissue cancer last year and had to have a foot amputated.

Jonathan Woolf
Jonathan Woolf: Family sees it as God's will
He recently discovered the cancer had returned in his lungs.

A religious person, he has decided not to go ahead with chemotherapy, which doctors said would only give him another couple of months of life.

"I said to myself, what's the good in feeling that bad with the chemotherapy on top of what I'm feeling, then dying anyway?

"I might as well go feeling as best as I can and in the best shape I can be."

His mother Vicky supported his decision, and both went to Lourdes seeking spiritual comfort.

"We accept this is God's will," she said.

Jonathan died in June.

Living With Cancer will be shown on BBC1 on Monday October 22 and 22.35BST.

See also:

15 Oct 01 | Health
Living with cancer
26 Sep 01 | Health
Mothers avoid breast cancer chat
26 Jul 01 | Health
Teens risking future health
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