Friday 18th December 2020

 

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, as honorary patrons the trio were determined not to let the milestone slip by unnoticed. They teamed up with the charity’s founders, Dr Adrian Whiteson OBE and Myrna Whiteson MBE, to host an event to thank just a few of the people who over the past 30 years have helped revolutionise cancer care for teenagers and young people.  

At the moving celebration, a posthumous award was given to Stephen Sutton for his outstanding contribution to the charity.  Stephen was diagnosed with colorectal cancer aged 15 and was supported by the Teenage Cancer Trust team in Birmingham. When he found out his cancer was incurable, he set up a ‘bucket list’ of 46 tasks. Number one on his list was to raise £10,000 for Teenage Cancer Trust, but Stephen’s fundraising total now stands in excess of £5.8million.    

On receiving the award in Stephen’s name, his mother, Jane Sutton, said: “I miss Stephen every day and I wish he was here to see all that he’s achieved.   

“I always used to joke with him about his original £10,000 fundraising target - I’d say ‘well, you got that wrong didn’t you Stephen!’ 

“By the time he passed in May 2014 he’d raised £3million, but now we’re nearing the £6 million mark and his legacy lives on. Stephen’s fundraising has changed the lives of teenagers and young people with cancer. He wanted every young person to have access to the same support as he’d had throughout his cancer journey. 

“I’m so proud to accept this award for Stephen and for him to receive special recognition as part of Teenage Cancer Trust’s 30th anniversary celebrations.” 

At the event The Princesses surprised their mother, Sarah, Duchess of York, who opened the charity’s first special hospital unit for young people in 1990, with a moving speech about her own contribution to the charity as its Patron - and how she inspired them to become involved with its work.   

Sarah, Duchess of York and Princess Eugenie were overcome with emotion as the sisters paid tribute to their mother’s 30-year commitment to supporting young people with cancer, which has included visiting and opening almost every one of Teenage Cancer Trust’s 28 hospital units across the UK.   

Princess Beatrice said: “Mum, everyone on this call has been inspired today by your boundless energy.  I think you've touched each and every single one of us with the mission that you have embraced through Teenage Cancer Trust.

“Thanks to your energy, as well as everybody else on the call, we are one big Teenage Cancer Trust family for the last 30 years, and we will continue to be, with your spirit embedded into the very core of this of the organisation.

Princess Eugenie recalled how their mother had taken them both to Teenage Cancer Trust units on their 18th birthdays, and added:

“We're very honoured to be here, but we wouldn't be here unless you educated us in in how we give back to people...I’m going to cry.  Thank you for everything you’ve done, and that you do for the charity, and for us.” 

The trio also talked with fellow honorary patron Roger Daltrey CBE of The Who about organising gigs at the Royal Albert Hall over the past 20 years, which have raised more than £30 million for Teenage Cancer Trust.  

Responding to a question from Sarah Duchess of York about why the charity has been so important in his life, an emotional Roger Daltrey said:  

“This charity has given me so much back. My teenage years were very, very difficult as I'm sure maybe yours were too. I call that my Tommy period in life, and isolation was quite a big part of it, I didn't quite know who I was.” 

Roger talked about how when his GP, Dr Adrian Whiteson, co-founder of the charity explained how Teenage Cancer Trust brings isolated young people with cancer together for treatment, he decided to involved.  

Roger said: “A kind of lightbulb went on. I promised Adrian that when The Who got back together, we would do some shows, which we did, and it all took off from there.”  

The Whiteson founders were then surprised as an extra special guest was introduced.  The guest was Tania Shepheard, who was diagnosed with bone cancer aged 17, and she spoke of her gratitude to have been moved from an adult ward to the first ever Teenage Cancer Trust unit in 1990. 

Sarah, Duchess of York, said:

“It’s so shocking to think now that back in 1990 there was no specialist care for teenagers and young adults with cancer.   

“Imagine being diagnosed with cancer at 17 and being treated on a ward with much older people, talked to as an adult by doctors when you are still a child, your loved ones not being able to stay with you overnight. How lonely and frightening that experience would be. 

“Thank goodness Adrian and Myrna came along and founded Teenage Cancer Trust – what an incredible difference this charity has made in such a short space of time.

“Since I opened the first special unit for young people 30 years ago, 27 others have been established right across the UK, and the nurses and youth support teams that work within them are absolute heroes. My daughters and I are so proud to be part of the Teenage Cancer Trust family, and part of these 30th anniversary celebrations.”  

Sue Morgan, a nurse who has worked with the charity for 12 years, and many other dedicated fundraisers and volunteers were honoured at the event.   

Speaking at the celebration the charity’s co-founder Myrna Whiteson MBE thanked every single one of the charity’s supporters, and said, “Together you’ve changed the world, and the possibilities for young people with cancer. I can’t thank you enough for helping the dream we had come true and making the dream that so many young people had of being well and living a life come true, because of you.” 

Helping to close the event Sarah, Duchess of York, read a fitting poem by Adam Lindsay Gordon, “Life is mostly froth and bubble, two things stand like stone. Kindness in another’s trouble, courage in your own.”