Every day, six young people aged 16-24 receive the shocking news that they have cancer.
Treatment usually starts immediately, can last for up to three years, and disrupts every area of their lives. Of course, this can include relationships and sex. And yet at such a formative time the issues that arise are not often openly discussed. Until now.
Having lost my mother to the illness, as well as my sister at a young age, I'm really proud to be working with CLIC Sargent, the UK's leading cancer charity for children and young people, on a brand new project that sets out to address the lack of information about relationships and sex for 16-24 year olds with cancer.
Imagine having to deal with relationship problems, sex, or negotiating the dating scene, while undergoing treatment for cancer. Or receiving a diagnosis and worrying that you might never get the chance to have your first proper relationship.
Alongside young people who have been supported by the charity, a wide range of experts and I are currently developing a new online project that will provide accurate, balanced and impartial info and advice, and tackle the central issues head-on.
I have been really touched by some of the stories I've heard from the young people involved with this venture so far. We have heard from those who have completely avoided having a serious relationship because they are too worried about explaining how their illness affects them. Others have admitted to feeling incredibly self-conscious because during treatment they have lost their hair, gained weight and been left with scars after operations. Many have told us that they have specific questions about sex that remain unanswered as they are too embarrassed talk to medical professionals.
For some, communicating with a partner about not wanting to have sex as much when they are ill, or are feeling unattractive due to physical changes, has been difficult. There are cases where individuals have even considered breaking up with a partner because they don't want to put them under too much pressure.
Of course, there are many who have found love or become closer to their partners, despite the challenges caused by cancer, and we'll be sharing these experiences for the benefit of others. No matter what they're facing, I passionately believe that all young people deserve the right to make informed decisions about sex and relationships that puts their welfare first. This groundbreaking new project, which will launch later this year, aims to support more young people with cancer to do just that.
CLIC Sargent is the UK's leading cancer charity for children and young people aged 0-24, and their families. It provides clinical, practical and emotional support to help them cope with cancer and get the most out of life. For more information visit www.clicsargent.org.uk or join CLIC Sargent's online community for young people aged 16-24 who have, or have had, cancer www.clicsargent.org.uk/community. You can also follow Clic Sargent on Twitter @CLIC_Sargent