Discover You 2023 - a thank you to funders and supporters

Home Discover You 2023 - a thank you to funders and supporters
1 May 2023

Discover You 2023 - a thank you to funders and supporters

We would like to send out a big thank you to this years funders and supporters of Discover You 2023. This positive engaging, motivational conference for young people aged 13-24 living with the long-term impacts of a cancer diagnosis and treatment, took place on Sunday 30 April at the Intercontinental Hotel on the Greenwich Peninsula. 

As the young people exited the lifts on the second floor, they were greeted by the uplifting sound of sunshine provided by Tony and his steel pans.

They were welcomed to the conference with a breakfast of coffee and pastries which they enjoyed taking in the stunning views of the London skyline, views of the River Thames, Canary Wharf and the iconic O2.

Teens Unite’s Chief Executive took to the stage with our host for the day – a young ambassador for the Charity who was diagnosed with malignant melanoma at age 19.  Together they set the scene for the day, detailing a schedule which included positive and powerful ways to ensure that all of these young people living with cancer could, in the safe surroundings we had created for them

  • Give themselves time and space to think.
  • Create for themselves new visions, realistic goals, and renewed motivation.
  • Access influential speakers sharing their own cancer journeys.
  • Rebuild their confidence.
  • Learn something new.
  • Explore lifestyle and self-care choices.
  • Learn how to integrate peace and calm into their daily lives, and importantly,
  • Meet other young people who, genuinely, know what it is like to face cancer in your teenage and young adult years.

With the positive tone well and truly set, our host welcomed to the stage the first of the day’s motivational speakers – Dr Anisha Patel.  As well as being a GP and one of Teens Unite’s Board of Trustees, Anisha was diagnosed with bowel cancer at age 39.  She understands the devasting impact a cancer diagnosis and treatment can have, but her positivity focussed on life after cancer, making sure that the young people were able to see how the skills and attributes they use to get through their treatment, are skills that set them up for life, and are in fact skills that are sought after by employers and educators.  She helped the young people to see how their experiences, no matter how frightening, equip them for life and present them with opportunities that they may otherwise not have been presented.  81% of the young people agreed that they felt empowered and inspired by Dr Anisha’s session.

“She was great, lovely to hear from someone older and speaking so frankly about her experience, she’s inspiring and her story made me realise we can achieve anything we want!”

With a newfound level of empowerment, the young people headed to the first of their chosen breakout sessions.  They selected either Skincare with Look Good Feel Better; cupcake decorating; yoga; Taboo Topics or fitness and nutrition.

For those that headed to the skincare session, they got to spend time with experts from the Charity Look Good Feel Better who had bought along a goodie bag for each young person.  They got to try skincare and beauty products, learn grooming, hair care and make-up application techniques.

Chemo can change both the colour and the texture of the skin – it can become red and dry.  And both during and after treatment, all hair-bearing areas, including eyebrow and eyelashes will shed over time.  The young people learned some great tips to care for their skin, to help them recreate eyebrows and the appearance of lashes, all of which help them to rebuild their confidence, and come to terms with their new look.

90% of young people diagnosed with cancer experience anxiety.  Battling cancer takes both a very physical and emotional toll – it’s a real struggle to even accept your diagnosis.  Creative activities are a powerful way to express emotions and can relieve a lot of stress, anger, and sadness.  In our cake decorating class, the young people used the creative process to express and communicate how they were feeling.  It enhanced their cognitive abilities, and provided them with a real sense of achievement, improving their self-confidence and self-esteem. One of the young people said of this activity “Fun and creative! Had a brilliant time seeing everyone else’s designs.”

Some of the young people opted to do some yoga with Jordan.  95% of young people diagnosed with cancer experience a negative impact on their physical ability, and 70% experience depression.  This kind of activity is all about the importance of self-care and being mindful of your own needs.  The practice of Yoga comes with many benefits for both physical and mental health which have been backed by science.  Multiple studies show that Yoga has a significant effect on anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and stress. It improves balance and increases flexibility.  Yoga is also proven to increase strength, endurance, and flexibility.  Through participation and encouragement, in a safe space, the young people rebuild their confidence and self-esteem and start to understand what they can achieve in all aspects of their lives. ‘Instructor was lovely and informative, there was no pressure, and I actually really needed this sort of relaxation on the day!”

Taboo Topics was a new venture for Teens Unite.  Hosted by the Charity’s Chief Executive, and members of Teens Unite’s Board of Young Ambassadors, all current or former service users. The team created a safe environment and gently encouraged the young people to share their experiences on a range of physical, mental, sexual, and emotional issues.  Hearing the young people telling each other the importance of self-care, encouraging each other to create and maintain healthy relationships with themselves, and offering suggestions on how to look after themselves shows how very special this little Community we have created is. Of this session, it was said “This was such a good experience. I loved this breakout and took a lot away from other people’s responses! Learning how to deal with certain situations and to know that you’re not alone in the way you feel. Would love to see this as a regular session with teens unite.”

The young people then regrouped for the most inspirational of ways to finish the morning session, as we were joined by international motivational speaker, former Teens Unite Trustee, and teenage cancer survivor, Chris Lambert-Gorwyn.  Chris’s high energy session told how he sees himself as the lucky one having had cancer as a teenager; how it has taught him to take the positives from all situations; to celebrate small successes and to see every step, not matter how small, as a step towards your goals and aspirations.  This was a very fitting end to the first half of a day full of positivity and motivation.  With a spring in their step, the young people headed for a delicious buffet lunch and the opportunity to chat with their newfound friends, or those they were reconnecting with. We know that some of the most powerful take aways come from the small talk encounters of these events, where they get to relax and chat with others and understand they are not alone in feeling the way that they do.  75% of the young people said they felt motivated and inspired by Chris’ session.

“I felt very inspired and motivated after his session. It was really enjoyable and I learnt a lot. The advice and support he was giving touched base with the topic of cancer but mainly was about the future and gave me a new perspective. It really helped me, and I’ll definitely use the things I’ve learnt from now on.”

To re-energise us after a lovely lunch, we kicked off the afternoons sessions by taking on the viral tik-tok song with its own associated dance moves – Bad Hair Day– for those of us with little or no coordination, this was quite a challenge!

The re-energiser was not really necessary as the room was full of energy and anticipation as we were joined by Shell Rowe.  She’s very well known to the young people as a social media influencer – she has over 750,000 followers and shares details of her cancer journey through positive posts and inspirational pod casts.  Shell openly and honestly shared her story, she talked of her disbelief at her diagnosis; her fear of losing her hair and the traumas of her ongoing treatment.  She talked of taking back control; of self-acceptance and the strength that she had gained from meeting other people like her and being part of a community.   Shell took questions from the young people, and there were plenty, and very generously hung around for the rest of the afternoon to continue to take questions and pose for selfies with the very excited, and inspired audience.  94% of the young people said they felt inspired and motivated by Shell’s session.

“It was great to have a TYA speaker - she was relatable, had a good sense of humour but was also really honest about challenges she has faced. A good mix of acknowledging it’s rubbish having cancer but also showing that the future can be positive”

“I loved listening to Shell. It was light-hearted, informative, and inspiring all at the same time. I didn’t want the session to end.”

The session with Shell was followed by further breakout sessions, there were more opportunities for skincare, yoga, and taboo topics, with additional opportunities for some improvisation techniques, and some positive thinking activities.

For the young people taking to Positive Thinking, they took part in a practical session based on The Jar of Life - when life overwhelms us, when our mind is a whirlwind of thoughts and we are afraid to go under, it is important to refocus on what is truly important and dear to us. They got reflective and creative with a jar, ping pong balls, beads, and sand. “It was lovely to think of all the positive things you have in life and be able to take away a reminder of this. I as many other people experience negative feelings towards my diagnosis, but this session really highlighted all the amazing things I have in life and was a good reminder not to lose sight of that!”

In the last of the breakout sessions, we were joined by Improvisation expert Stephen – 70% of young people diagnosed with cancer experience depression and 90% experience anxiety.  Research shows that improvisation has a positive impact on both as well as encouraging the young people to engage in some self-exploration, create inter-personal connections, and build some social and emotional skills.

For the final session of the day, the young people came back together and were joined by Teens Unite’s Young Ambassadors for a final Q&A session, hosted by Rian, another young social media influencer who uses his own experiences to encourage young men, particularly, facing the mental health impacts of cancer in their teenage years, to talk.  The Ambassadors were asked a variety of questions ranging from how their relationships with their families changed, to how they deal with toxic positivity, through telling an employer or potential employer about their diagnosis. Throughout the Ambassadors openly shared their experiences, and in so doing helped the other young people to better understand their own emotions and come up with strategies for dealing with these situations in the future. “It felt good to listen to the Teens Panel answer questions people had. I think it helped hearing other people’s opinions and perspectives. They were very positive even if they were talking about things which are usually viewed as negative. It gave me hope for the future.”

Discover You 2023 was closed by the Charity’s Chief Executive who acknowledged that the young people had experienced a busy day, with so much for them to take in.  She encouraged them to take some time to reflect on the day, to think about the elements of the day that they had really enjoyed, to remember the new things they had tried and had enjoyed, to think about things that they may now do differently or want to work on improving; to think about the relationships they had created, and those they want to build on, and to think about using what they had learned to create some new and exciting strategies for a positive future. 

94% of the young people attending felt connected to and supported by others who understand what they are going through.  And 100% would recommend a Teens Unite activity to a young people overcoming the challenges cancer brings.

This is an incredible legacy that our funders and supporters have helped to create.  Teens Unite and the young people we support thank them for their generosity.

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