“Top Tips From The Experts”

Self-isolation is one of the key parts and stages of most cancer patients’ treatment, when their immune system becomes compromised. With most of the world now under sudden lockdown and forced to self-isolate, YCE’s own community of young cancer survivors has rallied together to share their own expert tips on how to best deal with self-isolation during this time, especially from a mental health perspective. 

Brad is a young cancer survivor from Yorkshire, currently living in London. He was first diagnosed in 2013 with chronic myeloid leukaemia and underwent chemotherapy treatment until 2017, when it was discovered that the treatment had stopped working. He then had a bone marrow transplant and is now in remission and gradually coming off medication, looking forward to a medication-free lifestyle since his first diagnosis in 2013.

He has been an active member of YCE since joining them at their annual meeting in Lithuania in 2017, having gotten in contact with them through UK charity CLIC Sargent. Since then, he has become one of Europe’s most vocal patient advocates for young people with cancer, working with YCE on the development and launch of their white paper at the European Parliament and as a key part of the organisation’s communications group. His work with YCE, he says, has greatly impacted and influenced his work as an NHS youth expert advisor, of which there are only two in the UK, and also played a key role in him being the recipient of the Diana Award for his services to young people and the cancer community earlier this year. He strongly believes in empowering young people to be part of the decision making at institutional level on issues that directly affect them, which is also one of the key pillars that Youth Cancer Europe is built upon, and ensuring that they’re part of a diverse and inclusive community.

Brad, who spearheaded the idea of young cancer survivors sharing “self-isolation tips from the experts” with the wider community, says that staying connected with others is something that has not only helped him at a very difficult time, but also helps others when they’re feeling alone and vulnerable. He says it’s also important to ease off the pressure: “it takes five seconds to pick up the phone and say how are you; but at the same time I don’t expect anyone to feel like they have to respond – simply sending a message already shows that you’re there for them if they need someone to talk to. If they don’t feel like talking back, that’s also fine too, but it’s important for people to know that they don’t have to do something if they don’t feel like it”. Likewise, he stresses the importance of not feeling under pressure by what others are doing on social media. “You’ll see people getting up to this or that online at this time – if that inspires you to do something similar, good. But it’s also perfectly fine not to.” 

Brad’s passion for communication as a tool to combat loneliness and isolation, along with his experience as a YCE ambassador, is also part of what led him to build an app specifically tailored to young cancer patients and survivors, which is currently in the fundraising and development stages.