Two-time Edinburgh cancer survivor regains confidence through sailing
An 11-year-old from Edinburgh who is in recovery from leukaemia for a second time has regained a sense of confidence and independence after embarking on a sailing trip off the west coast of Scotland.
Finn Shearer was six when he was first diagnosed with the cancer after he had severe pains in his chest, but doctors initially told him he was imagining them because he was anxious.
He was eventually diagnosed and finished treatment at the end of 2015 when he was eight, but he relapsed in March last year and is now in recovery for a second time.
The sailing trip, organised by the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, took place over four days between 15 and 18 July in Largs.
Finn said: I was actually pretty nervous, I’m not the best at making friends in a short time period. I was like, I’m not going to get on with people and I’m not going to be able to do some of the things.
“But I’ve done things I never thought I could do and I’ve made some great friends. I’m really glad I came.”
The trip began last Monday where Finn and other young people in recovery engaged in team building exercises before setting sail on Tuesday morning to Port Bannatyne on Bute.
They stayed overnight and slept on board before sailing back to Largs on Wednesday to have a barbecue and an evening of playing games and spent Thursday afternoon cleaning the boats and saying goodbye.
Finn added: “The fact that you are on a boat in the middle of the sea and you can essentially just go wherever you want, the freedom is really good.
“With the experience that we’ve all had, we’ve not had that much control over our lives and it’s really nice to be able to say, ‘right, we’re going to over there’ and do that.
“It’s a great experience, it’s a once in a lifetime type thing, I thought I would be an idiot to miss it - and that was correct.”
For many young people in recovery, the unseen mental and emotional after-effects of cancer are as difficult as the physical.
Many young people with cancer miss out on education, don’t sit exams or leave jobs whilst on treatment and can be crippled by shyness and anxiety from missing day-to-day interaction with people, getting left behind as their friends grow up, and face the complex anger of survivor guilt, questioning why they lived but others did not.
The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, founded in 2003, aim to build confidence after cancer, using sailing to support, empower and inspire young people aged eight to 24 and provide long-term support to young people in finding the confidence to re-engage with education, employment and relationships.
Kerry McMillian, Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust Operations Manager at Largs, said:“It was great to have Finn as part of the crew. He was a real natural and got involved with everything to do with the day to day running of the yacht, both sailing wise and living on board.
“He was really enthusiastic and we look forward to him joining our return to sail programme and hope he comes back on future trips.
“All of the young people who set sail with us across the summer have been through a life-altering diagnosis. When treatment ends, the Trust’s work begins, supporting young people regain their confidence after cancer.”