A Midland mother whose “incredibly healthy” teenage daughter died three weeks’ after doctors diagnosed her with leukaemia has kick-started a £1 million Teenage Cancer Trust appeal with a £50,000 donation.
Maria Watt, of Marston Green, Birmingham, was in the middle of taking her AS Levels when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in June 2005.
Her mother, Diane, set up a charity dedicated to improving facilities for young cancer patients and funding research into why so many young people are being diagnosed with similar cancers.
Mrs Watt, who set up the Maria Watt Birmingham Foundation for Childhood and Teenage Leukaemia, handed over a cheque to the Teenage Cancer Trust as it launched its appeal to raise £1 million towards two new dedicated units at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, in Northfield.
She said: “Sadly Maria didn’t have the chance to be treated on a Teenage Cancer Trust unit, but since her death I have become involved with the charity because quite simply I know it will make a huge difference to other teenagers like Maria.
“The teenage years are difficult enough without adding a diagnosis of cancer, so being able to talk to people your age who are going through the same thing is vital to these patients.
“Because of her age, Maria was considered too old for the Children’s Hospital so instead was admitted onto an adult oncology ward at Heartlands Hospital, where she felt she was too young.
“I want to ensure that our local teenagers are given the best possible chance of recovery by receiving treatment in superior teenager friendly facilities where both their physical and psychological needs can be treated and where they will be with other young people who understand what they are going through”
Catherine Cartwright, was diagnosed with leukaemia in August and had to put her A-level studies on hold while she underwent treatment at the Children’s Hospital.
The 17-year-old, who lives in Sutton Coldfield, said: “There are no real facilities on the ward for people my age, in fact some of the books on the teenage shelves were aimed at five and six-year-olds, so being there for weeks at a time can be quite lonely because there’s no-one really to talk to.
“There are PlayStation consoles, if you’re into that sort of thing, but otherwise it’s best to bring your entertainment be it DVDs, CDs or books, because there’s not much else for teenagers.”
Work is due to start on a six-bed unit at the Children’s Hospital, which will accommodate teenagers up to the age of 16, is due to start this summer and set for completion by next April.
A similar project is also set to take shape at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, which will provide facilities for bone cancer patients from across the Midlands and the North.
These schemes will cost a total of £3 million, of which £1 million must be raised locally.
Teenage Cancer Trust will also raise funds for a third unit to be incorporated in a new specialist cancer unit within University Hospital of Birmingham, which is due for completion in 2010. This will be in addition to the charity’s existing unit at the hospital, which opened in June 2000.
Kerrang! Radio DJ Kate Lawler and Birmingham City FC boss Karren Brady were among the celebrities supporting the appeal.
Paula Hancox, the charity’s regional appeals manager, said: “Six teenagers are diagnosed with cancer every day, that’s over 2,000 each year – these young people, at an important point in their lives, have a right to be treated in age-appropriate facilities.
“A positive environment is an incredibly important part of treatment and recovery, as is having the support from staff who understand the specific needs of our young patients.
“ We are delighted to have Kerrang’s support on this campaign and hope that with the support of all of you in the West Midlands, we can smash our £1million target sooner rather than later.”