Growing Up With Cancer

Monday 26 June



The lives of three young cancer patients come under the spotlight in this moving documentary as they're treated at one the UK's largest specialist centres for teenagers with the disease.

Part of BBC One's Our Lives series, Growing Up With Cancer looks at the Teenage Cancer Trust Unit in Glasgow's Royal Hospital for Children where young people find a retreat at one of the most difficult times of their lives.

While the medical care given is comparable to other hospitals, the unit differs in that it offers special spaces for teen patients to chill out, listen to music or just play video games or watch a movie with other teenagers who have cancer. It's a place to let teenagers be teenagers in the hope it will help them deal with the devastating effects of cancer and chemotherapy.

"It's a great place to hang out," says 15-year-old Natasha. "We can relate to each other and we know each other's stories. We can meet other teenagers with cancer who understand what it's like."

Diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, Natasha comes to the unit five times a week for chemotherapy. She dreams of one day being a lawyer. “You've got to deal with it and that's it,” she says. “After this I'd never take health for granted. When I get married and have kids that'll be my main priority - my health, because anything could happen at any point. I'll just focus on my health and my education now, that's it.”

Also facing treatment for Hodgkin's Lymphoma is 14-year-old Nairn who allows cameras to film him and his parents as he gets his diagnosis from Consultant Haematologist Dr Nick Heaney.

Nairn is worried about falling behind with his school work but most of all he's concerned for his family. He says: “I don't want my mum and dad to be worried. A smile on my face just helps them cope with it a bit better. Obviously, being a teenager you're going to get grumpy sometimes, so I've tried to maintain a good behaviour with them and it's worked, but it's difficult. I need to keep that smile on though because I know it's helping them through it.”

Declan, 14, has been in the unit the longest. He needs a stem cell transplant after a relapse of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, but first must face over a month in isolation while his immune system is shut down in preparation. It's a tough period for the youngster, but looks like it will all be worthwhile as he prepares to go home after 20 weeks spent in hospital.

Growing Up With Cancer is a BBC Scotland Studios production for BBC One.

Pictured: Teenage Cancer Trust Youth Support co-ordinator Ronan Kelly and teenage cancer patient Connor Mc Dowall