Cancer In Young Adults ... Through Parents’ Eyes

George Easton Memorial Trust

Charity Number 1083286

The George Easton Memorial Trust is a memorial to George who 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.