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We’re two total opposites, but cancer gave us a special bond

One’s a goth, the other’s the ‘blondest person ever’, but the same rare illness made them pals

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Pals: Cat McKenna and Amber Scott are sharing their inspiring story of cancer and friendship in support of a new Teenage Cancer Trust campaign

Pals: Cat McKenna and Amber Scott are sharing their inspiring story of cancer and friendship in support of a new Teenage Cancer Trust campaign

Cat and Amber

Cat and Amber

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Pals: Cat McKenna and Amber Scott are sharing their inspiring story of cancer and friendship in support of a new Teenage Cancer Trust campaign

Two young women from Ballymena have spoken of their unlikely friendship after being diagnosed with the same rare cancer.

Self-proclaimed “big goth” Cat McKenna was only 19 when she received the shock news she had the disease. Amber Scott — the “blondest person you’ve ever seen” — was just 20.

Doctors told Cat they had discovered a neuroendocrine tumour in her appendix that had grown into her bowel.

“The cancer I had was quite rare and I was told that it was usually found in people in their 70s and 80s, and I was like: ‘Well, great, I’m a senior citizen now then?’” she said.

“After I was diagnosed I felt very isolated from everything — my family and friends, just everything. I did not cry a lot; I was just silently sad for such a long time.”

After five months of coming to terms with the life-changing news Cat’s Teenage Cancer Trust nurse Kerrie told her another young woman with the same diagnosis lived just 10 minutes away.

Amber said the pair soon formed an extremely close bond despite being “very different people”.

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Recalling their first meeting Cat, who is now 21, said: “When we talked the first thing Amber said to me was: ‘I am really blonde. I’m the blondest person you’ve ever seen. I’m impossible to miss’.

“And I said: ‘Well, I’m a big goth, and I’m also impossible to miss’.”

Amber, now 22, added: “We met at Starbucks and we were sat there like the odd pair. I was wearing something feminine and pink and she was in black head to toe, with black hair and these big biker boots, and I was like: ‘I hope I don’t see anyone I know’.”

Cat said: “We were both so weird about meeting at first, then we ended up sitting in my car chatting for an hour before we went home. It was strange and wonderful.

“There’s no effort that needs to go into our conversations, they flow easily. We both had to have major bowel surgery and the cancer has left lasting damage. When I talk about the after-effects, she just gets it. That is what is so important to me.”

Amber said she didn’t feel an obligation of friendship because of their illness, but that Cat is “one of the nicest, most compassionate people”.

Their introduction is one of many made by Teenage Cancer Trust nurses and youth workers, giving young people a chance to support each other and reduce the isolation they can feel.

Cat and Amber have also been able to meet with other affected young people at a weekend away run by the charity Find Your Sense Of Tumour.

Research from Teenage Cancer Trust shows young people often felt more isolated, as their friends became more distant during treatment.

Cat and Amber are now supporting the new Friendship And Cancer campaign, sharing their experience and tips on how to be a good friend to someone during their treatment.

Amber said sending messages to friends to let them know you care makes a huge difference, while Cat urged friends not to let cancer “have the spotlight”.

“You get that feeling enough whenever you’re hooked up to machines or spending days, months, years in hospitals and doctor’s offices,” she said.

“You have the power as a friend to identify with them and help them through that, so love your mates as much as you’ve always done and keep them in the loop.”

For further information on how to stay a good friend to someone with cancer, visit www.teenagecancertrust.org/friends.


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