Posted on Tuesday 26 February 2019

in News

Young people share their experiences of cancer in powerful performance

Eight young people, aged 18-24, from Northern Ireland, who have all been affected by cancer, have joined forces to produce their very own play telling their experiences, entitled ‘Beyond the Label’.

The play will be performed exclusively in front of healthcare professionals, charities and donors at Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast this Friday, 1 March, following a performance for friends and family on Saturday 23 February.

‘Beyond the Label’ was brought together by eight young people who attended Teenage Cancer Trust’s Find Your Sense of Tumour conference in 2017, where they watched a performance that inspired them to get together and tell their own stories.

The play lifts the lid on what it’s like to be diagnosed with cancer at a young age, hoping to encourage better understanding for families, friends and even the healthcare professionals that support them. The young people are asking to be seen as people beyond any labels people may place on them due to their cancer diagnosis.

As well as acting, young people will gain experience in stage management, sound and lighting and photography. As specialist treatment can last many months or even years, young people can often miss out on education or may be faced with a gap in their career. This performance gives them a chance to address some of those skills gaps for their futures.

The project and the young people involved were supported by the five charities and five health and social care trusts that make up the Northern Ireland Teenage and Young Adult (TYA) Cancer Service. The charities involved were: CLIC Sargent, Cancer Fund for Children, Friends of the Cancer Centre, Teenage Cancer Trust and The Children’s Cancer Unit Charity. ArtsCare also provided funding for the project, as well as drama facilitator Andrea Dougherty, who supported the young people through the scripting and performing process.

Annaliese Laffan, 23, from Cushendall, County Antrim, was diagnosed with cancer after falling off a jeep and suffering a brain injury while in Australia on a gap year in 2015.

She said: “Being part of this has helped me deal with my emotions and also helped my confidence. I wanted to do this to help my family and friends understand what I’ve went through on my own and what I still go through daily.”

Simon Darby, CLIC Sargent Young Person’s Social Worker based at Belfast City Hospital, said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to be part of this drama group, being involved in some of the discussions about the ‘labels’ young people get having had cancer, turning these discussions into a script and watching them develop as young people in survivorship from cancer. They want people to see beyond the labels and I hope this show helps them to do just that.”

Helen Patterson, Cancer Support Specialist at Cancer Fund for Children, said: “It has been incredible to see this group of young people take so much ownership over this project, to see their strength and determination to get a powerful message across that they are more than a cancer diagnosis.”

Lisa Callendar, TYA Clinical Nurse Specialist SEHSCT funded by Teenage Cancer Trust, said: “The drama group has been such a positive experience for the young people, allowing them an innovative way to express their thoughts and feelings from diagnosis onwards.”

Renée Reid, Friends of the Cancer Centre’s Clinical Nurse Specialist for Teenagers and Young Adults, said: “The drama group has given our young people the opportunity to process and portray their feelings and emotions in an innovative way.  It has been incredibly beneficial and it is wonderful to see the impact it has had on their confidence.”


Notes to editors

  • Cancer Fund for Children supports, empowers and connects children and young people diagnosed with cancer and their families in Northern Ireland.
  • CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children, young people and families. In 2017/18 CLIC Sargent supported over 300 children and young people with cancer in Northern Ireland.
  • Friends of the Cancer Centre is the local charity dedicated to making a real and meaningful difference to cancer patients and their families across Northern Ireland.
  • Teenage Cancer Trust is the only UK charity providing specialist nursing and emotional support to young people aged 13-24 diagnosed with cancer.
  • The Children’s Cancer Unit Charity supports the work of the Children’s Cancer and Haematology Unit at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and their families.

For more information, an interview or images, please email or call her on 020 8752 2938.

About cancer in children and young people

Today, 12 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

Note to sub editors

Please note that the name ‘CLIC Sargent’ should not be abbreviated to CLIC, and that the word ‘CLIC’ should always appear in capitals, as above.

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