‘You can’t tell we’re discussing dying’ Young women open up about cancer support for under 50s

Corinne Richards, left and Chezy Williams, promoting Shine cancer charity at local hospital. Photo:

Corinne Richards, left and Chezy Williams, promoting Shine cancer charity at local hospital. Photo: Submitted - Credit: Archant

Cancer is not something most people expect to be affected by in early adulthood.

Corinne Richards, left, and Chezy Williams, promoting Shine cancer charity at local hospital. Photo:

Corinne Richards, left, and Chezy Williams, promoting Shine cancer charity at local hospital. Photo: Submitted - Credit: Archant

But two women from Norfolk, diagnosed with the illness in their 20s and 30s, are on a mission to end the isolation that comes with a diagnosis.

Chezy Williams, now 28, was working as an art consultant in Cambridge when she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Ewing's sarcoma two years ago.

Following the diagnosis she was forced to move back in with her mother in Diss and said it was a common theme that young people with the disease ended up losing their career.

She said: "Having cancer is expensive. Most people with cancer have to take long periods off work or switch to part time which really damages your finances. Even after your treatment ends you have side effects which change the way you can work."

Plagued by a sense of isolation, the 28-year-old reached out to Shine, a national charity which supports people in their 20s, 30s and 40s affected by cancer.

She said the monthly meet ups helped her navigate the "new normal" of living with the disease.

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Corinne Richards, who initiated Shine meet ups in Norwich after being diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016, said the events were informal and addressed topics ranging from practical advice about treatment to dating with cancer.

She said: "If you saw us out you wouldn't be able to tell we were talking about nearly dying. We use a lot of dark humour and there's a lot of opening up about the embarrassing stuff that you wouldn't dream of talking about with anyone else."

As well as local meet ups, Shine runs national retreats, which Ms Richards described as "more karaoke than yoga".

It was here that she decided to enrol on a university counselling course, following support focused on rebooting her career.

She said: "The Shine community has helped me get back on my feet and my mission now is to reach as many people as possible."

Anyone interested in joining Shine should contact the group on norwich@shinecancersupport.org.

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