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Free physical activity group for young adults affected by cancer

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Chloe Woolfe was just 17 when she was diagnosed with bone cancer. A persistent knee problem had been causing her pain for six months, but none of the experts she had visited had expected the cause was cancer.

Having begun to lose weight, unable to sleep and regularly being left in tears by the near constant pain, Chloe went to see her mum’s GP and was referred to a knee specialist. She was sent for a routine MRI scan, but far from identifying an easy-to-fix cause of her pain, the scan unearthed osteosarcoma – a form of bone cancer. It certainly wasn’t an outcome anyone had anticipated.

“Apparently the specialist cried when he first saw the scan because you just don’t often see cancer in young people,” explained Chloe. “A lot of my friends were shocked. I was just angry; angry because I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me.”

Within a week Chloe was back in hospital, undergoing tests to establish how far the cancer had spread. Two weeks later she began treatment – eight months of intense chemotherapy followed by nearly a year of immunotherapy. It took its toll. Chloe said: “I was so ill that I just didn’t move for a year.

“I didn’t want to see people; I didn’t want to do any activities going on on the ward; I didn’t really do anything. I just wanted to get through it.”

Once her treatment was complete, however, Chloe began to get involved with charities organising support for young people experiencing cancer. She heard about Brighter Outlook, a physical activity project run by Albion in the Community, funded by NHS Brighton & Hove Clinical Commissioning Group and supported by Macmillan.

Participants are offered one-to-one specialist support from Albion in the Community’s cancer rehabilitation coaches, and access to the charity’s free group activity sessions.

Research shows staying active is beneficial at all stages of cancer treatment – helping control fatigue, maintain strength and fitness, and reduce risk of recurrence.

For Chloe, just being around other people going through similar things to what she had was hugely beneficial. “There are things people just don’t understand unless they have been through it,” said Chloe. “To have that space where you can talk about things with people who get it is so important.”

The session Chloe attended was for people of all ages, but thanks to additional support from the Teenage Cancer Trust, Albion in the Community is now launching a Brighter Outlook group specifically for people in their 20s and 30s.

It will include one-to-one support and a free 12-week activity group at Yellowave on Brighton seafront, taking place every Monday from 7.30pm.

Chloe, who is approaching five years of being NED (no evidence of disease), was keen to recommend the new session to other young people and quick to praise Albion in the Community’s expert coaches.

She said: “The coaches make you feel safe. They know what they’re talking about and help you through it.

“It can feel like a big leap – for me just going to that first circuit class was a massive achievement because I had no confidence – but I’d say just do it because it’ll be one of the best things you’ll ever do.”

For more information, or to sign up, call 01273 668591 or email: brighteroutlook@albioninthecommunity.org.uk.