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Cancer unit 'gives space to young'

The Duchess of York and The Who frontman Roger Daltrey have opened a new children's cancer unit praising the "truly inspirational" young patients.

Both are patrons of the Teenage Cancer Trust charity which has invested money in the new facilities at the at the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham.

The Duchess, who has been with the charity for 28 years, said the unit allowed teenagers "the space to be themselves" with communal space, games, a jukebox, and areas where youngsters can socialise or take time alone.

The 55-year-old said: "You're giving teens a space so that they don't have to be woken in the middle of the night to look at a little toddler having a nappy change, or granny with her false teeth taken out, snoring.

"They can have their own space where they can be themselves, listen to music, play pool and be in an environment they feel is conducive to a young person.

"In doing that, it dramatically changes the cancer and you are by these units, giving a teenager life - it helps the treatment work better on the patient."

Among some of the young people using the unit is Connor Creasey.

The teenager has been diagnosed with a brain tumour for the fourth time in his young life but is bravely pragmatic about his latest health challenge.

He is having pioneering chemotherapy developed by research at the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, which involves daily injections into the fluid around the brain.

Mr Creasey has not allowed his diagnosis to get him down, admitting he sang Always Look On The Bright Side of Life to his mother at the time.

He is delighted with the unit calling it "brilliant" and "definitely an improvement" on the old ward space, as he can play his own music or tackle games of Sudoku.

The 18-year-old travels from his home in Horsington near Horncastle in Lincolnshire every day for two weeks for chemotherapy, with a week off each fortnight.

He will only know how effective his treatment has been at his next scan.

Mr Creasey said: "I've been in the wars before, this is my fourth time, so I'll be all right."

Mr Daltrey, who organises a star-studded fund-raising concert at the Royal Albert Hall for the charity annually, said the unit was aimed at improving young cancer patients' experiences of hospital.

He said: "When I heard of this idea, hearing teens were isolated at a time when their life should be coming to fruition, to be isolated with a disease like cancer, I couldn't imagine in my head anything worse than that

"When I started (working with the charity) we were having 17-year-olds in hospital wards next to two-year-olds.

"When they were 18, they would be in an adult ward, next to someone like me - which I'm sure would be horrendous.

"So, I thought if we can make the hospital experience one that isn't dreaded that will only improve the success of their treatment."

Film-maker Shane Meadows, who is an ambassador for the charity, also leant his support to today's opening.

Mr Meadows, who lives in Nottingham, said he would be inviting young cancer patients to an event in the autumn marking the broadcast of his movie spin-off television series, This Is England '90.

The new unit, for 13-19-year-olds, is part of a much larger £4.7 million development at the city hospital.

That funding has included the creation of a new children's cancer and neurosciences ward, funded by the hospital's own charity, to treat youngsters aged 0-18.

Prof Richard Grundy, consultant oncologist and researcher at the hospital, said a key element of the new wards was their modern air-conditioning units, vital for managing the atmosphere around poorly children with low immune systems.

"We get children here having chemotherapy that affects their immune system, so they can't fight off infections that you and I could," he said.

"So we now have a super-clean environment that reduces the risk considerably of them picking up those infections."

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