Edinburgh student creates ‘cancer survival kit’ after illness

A student has used her experience with cancer to create a communication tool-kit with the aim of helping young people talk more comfortably about their diagnosis.
Bethany Millar wanted to help patients to speak about their experiences. Picture: EENBethany Millar wanted to help patients to speak about their experiences. Picture: EEN
Bethany Millar wanted to help patients to speak about their experiences. Picture: EEN

Bethany Millar was inspired by the support she and her family received from the Teenage Cancer Trust charity after a leukaemia diagnosis during her final years at secondary school.

The kit includes ice-breaker games, music cards to help with the creation of positive Spotify playlists and sweets to thank friends and family for their support. It also includes an informative book to advise friends on how to talk to people going through treatment, with space for messages and questions.

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Bethany said: “The Teenage Cancer Trust was a massive help to my family and me. They held some fantastic events that really helped take my mind off my diagnosis and I couldn’t have done it without them.”

After being given the all-clear last summer, the 24-year-old wanted to give something back to the charity that helped support her and her family through the toughest of times.

She designed an interactive book, which she hopes may one day be displayed in the Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Unit at the Western General Hospital, containing advice from other young 
people affected by cancer on how to deal with some of the challenges that being in treatment can bring.

Bethany, who studies graphic design at Napier University, was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of 17, while attending St Augustine’s RC High School in Sighthill.

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After finishing her sixth year, Bethany spent one year receiving treatment within the adult ward at the Western General Hospital before she was able to move to the brand new Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Unit within the state-of-the art facility when it opened in 2013.

She said: “When I received my all-clear later last summer, my initial thought was to try and do something to support others who are going through what I did.

“I’ve never been sporty – I could never run a marathon for charity – so this is sort of my way of potentially giving something back to the charity that supported me so well through my own diagnosis.

“When I was in hospital, I found that I had loads of visits from friends for the first one to two weeks but that sort of dwindled the longer I was in.

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“The kit reinforces the importance of reaching out to your friends when you are undergoing your treatment – friendly faces can be such a big help.”

Bethany added: “Teenagers can often find talking about the simpler things in life difficult – let alone a cancer diagnosis. This kit is just my way of helping them speak out a bit more about it so that they know exactly what is happening and that no question is silly or shouldn’t be asked.

“Overcoming my diagnosis really gave me the confidence to do anything I wanted so I decided to get up and give graphic design a go.

“If I can help just one person who is struggling to talk about their own diagnosis, then it has all been worthwhile.”

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