Dear Friend, My Mum Has Terminal Cancer

This post has been a long time coming. It has involved texts and Facebook messages from friends about things they’ve learned over Mum’s illness, things they wish they knew at the start and things they wish they knew now. It has involved thinking right back to the beginning and trying to remember how far we’ve come. I have a number of friends who haven’t been able to deal with this situation… and I’ve lost them. But that’s a post for another day. For now, this one is finally here.

Dear Friend,

I’m sorry to have to tell you this but mum has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I’m sorry to tell you in such a blunt way, but there really is no other way to say it, and as I’ve had to tell so many people, I’ve got used to just saying it, now.

Please don’t cry to me. I know it’s rubbish, I know it hurts and I know it’s scary, but I can’t cope with your grief about my situation on top of my own. Please find someone who you can speak to about this; a family member, a friend. I don’t mind who, but please don’t fall apart on me, and please don’t keep it all to yourself.

First and foremost, I need you to remember that you cannot take my pain away. You can’t erase my grief. You can’t cure my mum. No amount of beetroot juice or yoga is going to do that. It’s in our lives and it’s never going away. Maybe in a few weeks, or perhaps a few years, cancer will kill my mum. This is never going to get better – in fact it’s only going to get worse. You can’t fix my mum, and you certainly can’t stop me hurting. But you can definitely be a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or simply someone who makes me laugh and brings some happiness to my day.

Please don’t stop talking to me about normal things. I want to know about your significant other and why they’ve annoyed you. I want to know about your sister and how she did in her most recent exams. I want to know how last night’s party was. I want to know the good, the bad and the ugly; to chat like we’ve always done. I need this normality in my life! Don’t think that mum dying makes your problems ‘trivial’ or ‘stupid’, because they’re not. They matter to you, so they’re important, and I always want to know the important things in my friend’s lives.

Don’t feel that every single conversation you have with me has to include mum. That’s going to get very boring very quickly. I have a life outside of mum’s cancer. I volunteer, study, work, go out with my friends and even knit monkeys from time to time. Sometimes I just need a break from thinking about all that stuff. Sometimes I just want to be the normal, 21-year-old me. So unless mum’s been especially ill lately and you’re enquiring as to whether she’s feeling better, or there’s something specific you’d like to talk about, just wait for me to bring it up. If you really want to discuss it then feel free to ask me stuff, but ask me how I am before you ask me how mum is. The order of those two questions can make a big difference to how the conversation appears to me.

I’m sorry if I don’t always reply to your texts nowadays. My life gets busy. Mum has to go into hospital sometimes and there’s no signal there, then I often come home, help with tea and go straight to bed because being with a terminally ill parent is exhausting. Even when I’m at uni, I’m often catching up on work I’ve missed or trying to do all of my work during the week so I can go home on a weekend, and I just forget to check my phone. Sometimes I might read your message, but my head is so full of everything that I forget to reply. Please be patient with me.

Don’t stop texting, though. I love receiving messages and knowing that people care. Don’t feel you need to text me every second of every day – that would be weird and annoying. Just contact me as much as you always have done.

If I seem to be struggling, and you become worried, talk to me about it.
Ask me who I’m speaking to and what support I’m getting. You could walk with me to the GP when I need to go and sit with me in the waiting room if you wanted. See if you can find a group or an organisation who might be able to offer me some advice, or help someone in my situation. Remember, there is no ‘right’ way to support me. There is no ‘right’ thing to say or do. I haven’t changed as a person. I’m still me! I just have a really crappy situation going on in the background.

Please don’t disappear from my life. I know this is hard. I know you don’t know what to say or how to act, but I’d much rather have you in my life saying stupid stuff and mumbling, than not in my life at all. There is no ‘right’ thing to say or do. That’s what makes this so difficult. So just be you, stay in contact, and don’t run and hide, because I’ll miss you.

Drop me a message if you’re ever worried or upset. Please ask me if you’re not sure whether something is appropriate. Please tell me if I’m upsetting you in any way or if I’ve changed and it’s worrying you. Just communicate.

Thank you,
Your friend.




Involving Young People

Involving young people is something that I get asked about a lot. People often want to know how they can involve young people in things and get them to have their say. However, sadly, although I have found that some of these people do genuinely want feedback, opinions and ideas from young people, many do not. They say that they want inclusion and that young people are ‘the future’ and ‘the decisions are going to effect them’and all of the other cliche lines that get thrown around all the time. However, how much they actually believe in these statements I’m not sure.

As young people, we are a hassle and we are annoying. This is because, we want things done, we want them done properly and we want them done quickly. We want to see a change. We have energy, and drive, but we need you to help us channel them into something productive. You can’t leave us with false promises because we will remember and we will tell you when you haven’t delivered. All of these things are annoying because it means that you actually have to do something about the issues rather then gathering data, promising changes and leaving the paperwork on a desk to gather dust.

We are also up to date with the latest technologies, generally speaking, and will expect you to be to. Facebook and Twitter are everyday communication tools. You will have to learn to use these sites, if you want to get young people involved. However much you may hate these sites or disagree with them, sometimes you just have to do something you don’t like.

We want to be listened to. Do not invite us to come and sit at one of your meetings to ‘give a young person’s perspective’ and then ignore everything we have to say. Or make us feel unwelcome. What good does that do?! In fact, it probably does more harm then good, as it’s likely to put barriers up between the two age groups rather than achieving anything. If you want a young person present at your meetings, you need to involve them, and you need to seriously listen and take on board what they have to say. Do not discount their ideas or see them as useless without giving them as much thought as you’d give to any ideas submitted by other people around the table. Furthermore, don’t have a discussion group focussing on how to get young people involved, without a young person featuring as part of the group! We are experts in knowing how young people communicate and what issues they’re facing, because we are young people. So it’s daft trying to guess from an adult perspective when you can just come and ask one of us.

Please don’t treat us like aliens. We are not strange creatures from outer space with unidentified flying hormones floating around (I know, I know, this may be a shock). We are humans too(!) and we want to feel like we’re part of your group. We want to feel like one of you, not like a zoo animal put out for observation. Treat us as one of your own, but also, remember that we are only young and sometimes this may affect our judgements on things, and in some instances we may need a bit of care and understanding as certain issues may affect us more then they affect you.

Finally, help with travel costs can go a long way (unintentional pun!). If you can cover our travel costs or offer us a lift home, it will make the world of difference and help to keep us involved. We are skint, as a rule, and travel is normally very expensive. So something that might not seem like much to you will be a massive help to us!

So, to summarise,to involve young people, you need to listen to what we have to say. When I say listen, I don’t mean in one ear and out the other listening, I mean properly listening. You have to treat us with respect (this of course does go two ways), and take us as seriously as anyone else. Once we feel that we’re being listened to, and that something is actually being done about issues that effect us, you will start to see change! One thing young people do have more of then adults, is time. So, if we want a change to occur, and you want change to occur, with the right guidance and support, young people will help you move mountains.

8 Letters.

Thank you.

It’s the time of year when people look back on the past year, look forward to the next year and contemplate their lives. It’s also the time of year where people say thank you for things that you have done for them throughout the year. I have been lucky enough to receive some wonderful thank yous this year, in the form of gifts, cards, smiles, words and emails.

As much as I love what I do (and I really, really do), I often struggle with my confidence, frequently believing that I’m not doing ‘enough’ and what I do isn’t ‘good enough’. This can lead to me feeling fairly rubbish about myself! Already, volunteering has increased my confidence massively, but it is still something I’m working through. I find it incredibly touching when people thank me for my work. So much so that it can sometimes bring me to tears (in a good way!). It helps to validate what I’ve done and reassure me that I am making a positive difference, that is my main aim, so knowing that I have achieved this aim is incredibly important to me.

It is also incredibly nice to be recognised for the hard work that you put in. It makes you feel like people have noticed what you’re doing and appreciate it. When you’re sat at home, you should be in bed and you’re filling in yet more admin work, it can sometimes make you wonder why exactly you’re doing this. But, when you see the difference you make to those around you, and when people acknowledge the work you’ve put in, it makes it all worthwhile!

You will find that most volunteers enjoy what they do and you will also find that they tend to do it because it’s something they want to do and they want to give something back to the community. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t need thanking. They do. Something as simple as a card or a text can really bring a smile to your face! It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture! Two words can make the world of difference.

It’s lovely when people bring gifts at Christmas but it’s aso equally lovely when people thank you year-round. It is incredibly imprtant to thank your volunteers, their work is invaluble and believe me, you would notice if they weren’t there! It’s 8 letters. They don’t take long to say, but I can’t stress how much of a difference they can make.

8 Letters
2 Words
1 Thank you.