Student’s degree show project aims to help young people with cancer to communicate
An Edinburgh Napier student has used her own experience of cancer to shape a Degree Show project that aims to help support young people with their own diagnosis.
fourth year Bethany Millar was diagnosed with leukaemia when she was just 17 years-old.
After finishing sixth year at St Augustine’s RC High School, Bethany spent a year receiving treatment within the adult ward at the Western General Hospital before moving to the new Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Unit within the hospital when it opened in 2013.
It was during a further year of treatment within this facility that Bethany experienced first-hand the support and invaluable advice on offer from the Teenage Cancer Trust charity.
From the state of the art facilities and the weekly art therapy sessions, to the trips away to Centre Parcs and even the Royal Albert Hall to see The Cure, the charity played a big role in supporting her and her family through her diagnosis.
Now, as part of the recent Edinburgh Napier Degree Show, Bethany looked to provide support of her own to others through the development of a unique communications kit that aims to making it easier for young people to talk about their diagnosis.
Featuring a number of quirky games such as her own version of Connect Four that helps with awkward questions alongside music cards to help with the creation of positive Spotify playlists, the kit aims to help stimulate conversation and support a young person through the many stages of a diagnosis.
The kit is also home to love heart sweets to remind you to thank friends and family who are being supportive as well as an informative book which advises how to talk to your friend when they’re going through treatment and the side effects it can have, with space for messages and questions.
Bethany has also designed an interactive book – which she hopes may one day sit within the Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Unit itself – that features advice from other young people affected by cancer on how to deal with certain issues that treatment can bring. Topics covered includes loneliness, exhaustion and appearance changes.
Although the project is conceptual at this stage, the 24-year-old hopes to show the charity her work in the coming weeks in a hope that they might find a use for it within the teenage and young adult facility.
She said: “When I received my all clear latter last summer, my initial thought was to try and do something to support others who are going through what I did. I’ve never been sporty – I could never run a marathon for charity – so this is sort of my way of potentially giving something back to the charity that supported me so well through my own diagnosis.
“When I was in hospital, I found that I had loads of visits from friends for the first one to two weeks but that sort of dwindled the longer I was in. The kit reinforces the importance of reaching out to your friends when you are undergoing your treatment – friendly faces can be such a big help.
“Teenagers can often find talking about the simpler things in life difficult – let alone a cancer diagnosis. This kit is just my way of helping them speak out a bit more about it so that they know exactly what is happening and that no question is silly or shouldn’t be asked.
“The Teenage Cancer Trust was a massive help to my family and I – the facility really is amazing. They held some fantastic events that really helped take my mind off my diagnosis and I couldn’t have done it without them.
“I initially thought I wanted to study child nursing at university, even though I had always been creative and enjoyed art at school. Overcoming my diagnosis really gave me the confidence to do anything I wanted so I decided to get up and give Graphic Design a go.
“Now I’m here, using the skills I’ve developed over the last four years to bring things full circle. If I can help just one person who is struggling to talk about their own diagnosis, then it has all been worthwhile.”
Bethany’s project along with hundreds of others was part of the Edinburgh Napier Degree Show which was held at the University’s Merchiston campus from 17-24 May.