Grace Nkounkou-Issombe, 24, from Dudley, was one of six young people from around the UK picked by CLIC Sargent to take part in a photo shoot with celebrity photographer Richard Young to promote our #NoFilter4Cancer campaign.
Grace was photographed by Richard Young, who made his name photographing the likes of Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Joan Collins, Kate Moss, Angelina Jolie, Andy Warhol, Marvin Gaye, Mick Jagger and Stevie Wonder, to name just a few.
The photography is part of a month long awareness drive by the charity called #NoFilter4Cancer which aims to reveal the ‘hidden costs’ of cancer for young people in body image, self-care and mental health issues which Grace has faced.
Grace was diagnosed with a benign tumour and was waiting for it to be removed for over a year.
After giving birth to her son, Austin, she had problems walking, and a biopsy on the tumour found that she had osteosarcoma, bone cancer. Life and cancer treatment has been tough for her and her partner Ambrose since and Grace had to have her leg amputated.
Grace said: “The cancer itself didn’t shock me but the thought that I might not be around for my son hurt me deeply. It made me feel so low. Hospital has been really, really tough and I almost died with one of the infections I had, I was in intensive care. But I’m not ready to die.”
Grace was supported by CLIC Sargent Social Worker Sam Collins, who helped her with practical, financial and emotional support.
Grace said: “Sam is always there. I talk to him, cry to him, joke when I need to. He pushes me to stay positive and has arranged for me to see people so I can talk to them about some other problems I’ve been struggling with too.”
The #NoFilter4Cancer campaign is close to her heart and she is keen to give something back to the charity and to raise vital awareness
Grace said: “Cancer changes things. But I want people to know that cancer doesn’t mean that your life is over. We’re not just all lying down in a bed all day being ill. That’s what people think!
“It is about fighting it and staying positive and it is a new opportunity for you to do better. It’s not that you have cancer that your life is gone.
"We are still here, we are alive. It is amazing what you can survive without – even your hair. I was taking life easy before and would have complained about the smallest things. But there are too many good things in life to be negative. There is always a positive, even in bad news.”
Richard Young said: “Throughout my career I have photographed many celebrities however this CLIC Sargent campaign has been by far the most important job of my photographic life”
Kate Lee, Chief Executive at CLIC Sargent, said: “Together with young people Grace, we are exposing the hidden costs of cancer and talk about what life really looks like for them. This campaign gives young people the power to explore body image and mental health issues and tell it how it is, unfiltered.”
For more information, an interview or images, please contact Jack Wilson on 020 8752 2833 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Out of hours contact 08448 481189.
About cancer in children and young people
Today, 11 more children and young people in the UK will hear the devastating news that they have cancer. Treatment normally starts immediately, is often given many miles from home and can last for up to three years. Although survival rates are over 80%, cancer remains the single largest cause of death from disease in children and young people in the UK.
About CLIC Sargent
When cancer strikes young lives CLIC Sargent helps families limit the damage cancer causes beyond their health. CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading charity for young cancer patients and their families. We provide specialist support, to help and guide each young cancer patient and their family. We will fight tirelessly for them, individually, locally and nationally. For more information, visit www.clicsargent.org.uk