Leeds nurse honoured by royalty for revolutionising support for teenage cancer patients
18 December 2020
Nurse Consultant Sue Morgan MBE, has been honoured by Their Royal Highnesses Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie along with their mother Sarah, Duchess of York, at an emotional virtual event celebrating 30 years of the charity Teenage Cancer Trust.
Sue, who is based at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds, was one of the very first Teenage Cancer Trust Nurse Consultants funded by the charity 12 years ago, and was instrumental in pioneering the now flagship Find Your Sense of Tumour event - an annual weekend that provides activities, inspirational talks and expert, practical advice in addition to keeping young people connected to each other.
The Princesses and mother Sarah, Duchess of York, who are Honorary Patrons of Teenage Cancer Trust, joined the charity’s founders, Dr Adrian Whiteson OBE and Myrna Whiteson MBE, to host the event that took place earlier this month, to thank just a few of the people who over the past 30 years have helped revolutionise cancer care for teenagers and young people.
Sue joined rock royalty Roger Daltrey CBE on the call – who himself is an Honorary Patron of the charity – as well as Tania Shepheard – one of the first people helped by Teenage Cancer Trust in 1990 – and Jane Sutton, mother of teenager Stephen Sutton, who died from colorectal cancer in May 2014 and who has raised over £5.8m for the charity.
HRH Princess Beatrice told Sue that what she has achieved is incredible and in response Sue said:
“When I first started working with young people with cancer, I formed a group called the Teenage Cancer Trust Multidisciplinary Forum, which started with two people and then snowballed into a group of people who looked at the needs of young people across the UK. And then I just thought that I go to a lot of conferences and wondered whether the young people would enjoy their own? It coincided with Simon Davies starting as Teenage Cancer Trust CEO, and we worked together to put on our first one. I consider ourselves the proud parents of Find Your Sense of Tumour. Together we have carried on growing it and turning it to the beast that it is now. And so it's thanks to Teenage Cancer Trust for believing in it and helping push it forward. For giving it a whirl all those years ago.”
As the charity’s very own trailblazer gave her account of the very first Find Your Sense of Tumour event, held 20 years ago, Princess Beatrice’s face lit up, along with others in the room who listened intently.
Sue said: “I thought that no one would come, and then suddenly, the lifts opened. I’ve never been to Lourdes, but I imagined that this was what it was like because when everyone walked through the door, they were on crutches, in wheelchairs and they were laughing, they were happy. It was just so lovely to see. And I will never ever forget that memory of thinking, oh, my word people have come. And then we’ve been able to prove what a worthwhile event it is. Since 2000 it has continued throughout the years and now others have taken on the baton.”
At the event the Princesses, who overcome with emotion, surprised their mother, Sarah, Duchess of York, who has visited and opened almost every one of Teenage Cancer Trust’s 28 hospital units across the UK, with a moving speech. It highlighted her own contribution to the charity which has spanned 30 years, and how she has inspired them to become involved with its work.
Princess Beatrice said: “Mum, everyone on this call has been inspired today by your boundless energy. I think you've touched each and every single one of us with the mission that you have embraced through Teenage Cancer Trust.
“Thanks to your energy, as well as everybody else on the call, we are one big Teenage Cancer Trust family for the last 30 years and we will continue to be, with your spirit embedded into the very core of this of the organisation.”
Princess Eugenie recalled how their mother had taken them both to Teenage Cancer Trust units on their 18th birthdays, and added:
“We're very honoured to be here, but we wouldn't be here unless you educated us in in how we give back to people...I’m going to cry. Thank you for everything you’ve done, and that you do for the charity, and for us.”
Teenage Cancer Trust pioneered teenage and young adult cancer care, creating a network of 28 specialist units, funding more than 100 dedicated nurse and youth support coordinator posts, and contributing over £60m to the NHS in its 30-year lifespan.
Sarah, Duchess of York, said:
“It’s so shocking to think now that back in 1990 there was no specialist care for teenagers and young adults with cancer.
“Imagine being diagnosed with cancer at 17 and being treated on a ward with much older people, talked to as an adult by doctors when you are still a child, your loved ones not being able to stay with you overnight. How lonely and frightening that experience would be.
“Thank goodness Adrian and Myrna came along and founded Teenage Cancer Trust – what an incredible difference this charity has made in such a short space of time.
“Since I opened the first special unit for young people 30 years ago, 27 others have been established right across the UK, and the nurses and youth support teams that work within them are absolute heroes. My daughters and I are so proud to be part of the Teenage Cancer Trust family, and part of these 30th anniversary celebrations.”
Speaking at the celebration, the charity’s co-founder Myrna Whiteson MBE all of the charity’s supporters, and said, “Together you’ve changed the world, and the possibilities for young people with cancer. I can’t thank you enough for helping the dream we had come true and making the dream that so many young people had of being well and living a life come true, because of you.”
Helping to close the event Sarah, Duchess of York, read a fitting poem by Adam Lindsay Gordon, “Life is mostly froth and bubble, two things stand like stone. Kindness in another’s trouble, courage in your own.”