New cancer service in Northamptonshire libraries will help teens be themselves

Marvin Mugzongo and Kay Atkinson at Saturday's launch of The C Word at Central Library
Marvin Mugzongo and Kay Atkinson at Saturday's launch of The C Word at Central Library

​Teens and other young people in Northamptonshire from today have an informal service based at libraries to help them deal with cancer.

The C Word, run by Macmillan Cancer Support, will offer activities from 36 libraries and aims to let 13 to 24-year-olds with a friend, parent, brother or sister with the disease -or who have it themself - to be themselves.

Beth Harrison writes on the message wall at The C Word launch

Beth Harrison writes on the message wall at The C Word launch

They will be offered a range of free activities from film-making to occupational therapy, with people on hand to answer any question they may have about cancer.

Part of the reason for the need is that NHS cancer care is firmly split into adult and child care, with nothing in between.

Macmillan and Northamptonshire County Council saw there were gaps in both support and information, which often led to behaviour problems.

Beth Harrison, aged 16, from Kingsthorpe, had leukaemia from being an 11-year-old in 2010 until 2013 and said she struggled to find anyone who understood her ordeal.

She said: “I suppose there were doctors and Clic Sargent, but nowhere I could go to talk to people my own age.

“I would be on Disney Ward at NGH and the only people going through the same thing would be 10 years younger.

“You really want someone who isn’t a friend of family member who you can just chill with and who won’t judge you for having to wear a hat or because you face has gone all puffy through steroids.”

Teenagers who know someone with cancer may not even realise they need support.

Often, the parents of teenagers try to shield them from information if their sibling has cancer but teens are actually of an age where knowing as much possible is helpful.

The scheme can also help young people who have found themselves as carers for a relative or who find themselves split from the family for long periods (a recurring theme in Northamptonshire which has no principal cancer treatment centre for the immediate period after diagnosis).

The help offered by The C Word (the name was chosen by young people because they find that the word ‘cancer’ is often skirted around, and this service aims to bring it to the fore) is varied.

It can also include:

- emotional support

- help with school, university or work,

- advice on finances,

- information from the unique experience of Macmillan Cancer Support about a relation or friend’s condition,

- or just an opportunity to escape for a while.

Abbie Weaver, the project manager, said: “The diagnosis is like a pebble splashing into a pool then the ripples spread out and get wider. It affects teenagers even when it isn’t obvious.

“We want to give help but at the same time be somewhere they can just be themselves.”

To make sure The C* Word properly meets their needs, young people affected by cancer are being invited to join the project’s focus group to help identify the type of services and activities that should be delivered

The C Word also needs help from any group or organisation that can provide activities for the services young people. The only criteria is that teh activity is something people aged 13-24 migt be interested in.

To join the focus group or offer help, email:, visit or look up @TheCWord_2015 on Twitter.​