Penny Brohn UK

Help change life with cancer. For good

The Dillon Family’s Story

Cameron was 17 when he was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukaemia. His parents, Sara and Andrew attended the TYA supported Living Well course and found that through the help of Penny Brohn UK they have been empowered to move forward positively during Cameron's break from treatment.

"Thanks to the TYA and Penny Brohn UK, we feel empowered to move forward positively."


Our son Cameron, 17, felt out of sorts for a week or so, complaining of tiredness and feeling unwell. We thought it was a virus or flu, not anything serious. On the Saturday, we noticed bruises on his arms he couldn’t explain. By the evening he was so unwell we rang 111 and took him to our out-of-hours facility. Cam was told to rest and that we needed to request urgent blood tests from our GP on the Monday. We didn’t make it that far.

In the morning, Cam’s legs were aching and he had more bruises. I offered to run him a bath and as I helped him to the bathroom – Cam lost consciousness. A 999 call and a half hour later we were in A&E. Blood tests were taken and he was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukaemia on 8 March 2015.

We’ll never forget the doctor’s face, the words or look on Cam’s face. Our world came crashing down – we didn’t see it coming. Cam received platelets and an hour or so after diagnosis, we were rushed, on blue lights, to Bristol Children’s Hospital.

The care was amazing. Treatment started immediately and (we learned afterwards) the first few days were crucial. Cam had rarely been ill and hated taking tablets, but was thrown into a bewildering world of medical procedures, medication, and countless doctors and nurses looking after him. We quickly realised what an amazing young man he is – approaching all treatment with positivity and good grace, no matter what was being done.

After two weeks, Cam was moved to the TYA Unit, designed for teenagers and young adults with cancer, funded by Teenage Cancer Trust. He stayed there for four weeks, before beginning consolidation protocol, daily arsenic trioxide infusions for four weeks, then a four week break. During this nine month period, the TYA team, committed to patients’ physical and emotional wellbeing, looked after us. We laughed, cried, baked and ate with them, and they even threw Cam an 18th birthday party as he was in treatment for his big day.

As treatment ended and we returned to ‘normal’ life, the enormity of what happened hit us hard. Cam struggled with emotions and needed counselling. Everything had changed, his friends had moved onto university – Cam was left behind. The TYA helped with practical and emotional support, and a bit of fun.

We heard about Penny Brohn UK’s TYA-supported Living Well course for parents of teenagers who had or have cancer. 10 of us attended, all strangers at the start of the weekend, but after sharing experiences, everyone left feeling supported, and with strategies and support systems to help move forward and find ways for our young people to grow, develop and find their way. Some techniques involved mindfulness, breathing exercises and imagery. There were great chances to share experiences and offer others support and advice.

Penny Brohn UK is beautiful, calming and seemed to soothe us as we arrived. We were nervous to meet new people and expose our emotions, but staff couldn’t have been more helpful, reassuring and supportive. The environment’s ethos to treat mind, body, spirit and emotions was evident in everything we did. Since returning home, we have reflected on our feelings about having a child with cancer and applied the techniques learnt to everyday life. Thanks to the TYA and Penny Brohn UK, we feel empowered to move forward positively.

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