Cancer In Young Adults ... Through Parents’ Eyes

Welcome to our website

This website has been archived by Lancaster University as a resource to provide information for anyone affected by cancer in a teenager or young adult. It contains personal stories written by parents who have accompanied their adolescent/young adult son or daughter along the roller coaster of the cancer journey. Some of the youngsters survived their illness, others did not. We hope these personal accounts will help to reduce the isolation many parents say they feel when faced with this most challenging situation.

The site also includes extracts from two of four books based on research conducted by Dr Anne Grinyer of Lancaster University and funded by the George Easton Memorial Trust. The first book Cancer in Young Adults: Through Parents’ Eyes (2002) is based on first hand accounts from parents about their experiences of supporting a young adult with cancer. The second book Young People Living with Cancer (2007) discusses what teenage and young adult cancer patients say is of most concern to them about their illness and treatment. Both these books are published by Open University Press. Click on Publications to find summaries of the main issues from each book and to see a list of journal articles.

A third book by Dr Anne Grinyer, Life after Cancer in Adolescence and Young Adulthood: The experience of survivorship was published by Routledge in April 2009. The final book in Anne Grinyer's series on teenagers with cancer also based on research funded by the Trust is a study of the life stage issues affecting palliative care decisions for children, teenagers and young adults; this was published in March 2012 by Wiley Blackwell and is entitled Palliative and End of Life Care for Children and Young People.

The George Easton Memorial Trust funded this research in memory of George who died aged 23 from osteosarcoma which was diagnosed when he was a 19 year old student. During his illness George’s parents, Geoff and Helen discovered that there was surprisingly little information available about the immense impact of a cancer diagnosis in a young adult or about the implications of this transitional life stage. Since the Trust was set up in 1999 there has been a huge increase in awareness and the provision of facilities for this age group and Trustees are pleased that the work of the Trust and Anne Grinyer’s research has helped in this process.

George Easton Memorial Trust

The George Easton Memorial Trust was set up as a charity in 1999 as is a memorial to George who died aged 23 of osteosarcoma. The charity was closed down in February 2017 after having achieved its research objectives. These were to add to the body of knowledge about what it is like to be a young adult with cancer and the impact on the families who care for the young people. This award winning research has informed policy and practice with this age group in the UK and internationally.

George was a 19 year old student at Sheffield University when what he believed to be a football injury to his knee turned out to be a malignant bone tumour (osteosarcoma). He was almost at the end of his first undergraduate year (May 1995) studying Geography and Sociology and he died just under four years later in March 1999. George was the middle of three sons of Geoff and Helen Easton. His older brother, Jonathan was also a student at the time of the diagnosis and David was aged eleven and in his last year at primary school.

Until the last few days of George's life he continued to believe that he would recover from the cancer through sheer will power and determination. Nevertheless he made sure that he packed as much as possible into the time he had available-just in case. He transferred his studies to Lancaster University knowing that he needed the support of home as he went through aggressive chemotherapy and major surgery. For much of the time his stamina and energy levels were drained by the treatments but he worked incredibly hard to re-learn how to play golf, cycle and swim with an artificial knee and a titanium prosthesis in his right leg. He joined the Lancaster University Swimming Club in 1997 but never told anyone why he had scars down his chest and his leg. He swam exceedingly well in spite of having undergone lung surgery only months previously and was sure that none of the other students knew that he was ill. When the lung metastases recurred the following Spring but this time did not respond to treatment he planned a cycle ride from Lands End to John O'Groats and trained for it by cycling Coast to Coast with a school friend (see Tim's story) who was recovering from cancer. He managed 400 miles in six days before becoming too tired to continue-but always planned to finish when he felt stronger. His younger brother, David, did it for him eighteen months after George's death and in the process raised money to help fund the research which has become the Trust's main activity.

Supporting George through his struggle for normality and independence was an enormous challenge. Young adults are usually determined to become less dependent on their families, not more, and George was no different. Knowing when to help and when to stand back was very hard and at the time his parents felt that they would have benefited greatly from knowing how other families coped. When George asked his mum, 'what are you going to do when all this is over?' a few days before he died and in reply to her request for suggestions said that he would like her to 'do something to help other people in the same situation' there was no alternative but to try. As a hospital social worker married to an academic the area in which George's parents felt most confident was social research and the gathering and providing of information. Friends and family have been generous in raising money to help fund the Trust's activities through a variety of events such as sponsored bike rides, marathons and car boot sales. But most of all this website has come about because one very brave young man knew that supporting a young adult through serious illness is a life changing experience which can be very isolating and isn't always fully understood.

For further information please contact Dr Anne Grinyer at: a.grinyer@lancaster.ac.uk