As a keen sailor for over 10 years, I have had many fabulous adventures. I’ve seen how it transcends all ages so, when I became aware of the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, I thought it was a fantastic opportunity for youngsters to experience the fun sailing can bring. Ellen MacArthur, as many of you will know, sailed solo around the world in 2005, but set up her charity in 2003 to support young people aged 8–24 to rebuild their confidence after cancer.

The charity provides the youngsters with a range of experiences including sailing trips. The charity relies on donations, but also on volunteers. The volunteers include graduate volunteers who are young people who have previously taken part in the sailing trips, but also volunteer clinicians who can be on hand to support the young people, provide occasional clinical assistance and ensure safety.

I signed up as a volunteer clinician at the end of 2019, after speaking to a skipper, following a short sailing trip in the Atlantic. I was due to take part in my first volunteer trip in 2020 but, unfortunately, the pandemic hit so it was put on hold. At last, in 2022, I was able to undertake my first volunteer session for the Trust, which culminated in the ASTO Small Ships race in Cowes, between Thursday 22 and Sunday 25 September 2022.

Queen's Nurse Sharon Lee on a boat

I can honestly say it was one of the most amazing things I have ever had the privilege of taking part in. The young people on the trip were so inspirational, despite their cancer journey, and it made me feel humbled. I also had the opportunity to chat to one of the other clinicians. I decided that I would definitely volunteer again for the Trust and so this year I arrived on Bank holiday Monday to join the boats in preparation for the youngsters arriving on Tuesday.

I only had prior experience of supporting the 18–24-year-olds last year, but this time it was the under-18s so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We had a total of 25 youngsters in 5 boats and as you can imagine when they arrived they were all a little nervous. It was both an emotional but inspirational week for everyone concerned, but watching the smiles on the faces of these youngsters over the course of the week, seeing them talking to their peers who can really understand about their cancer journey, to the friendships that were forged between them was just amazing.

At the end of the week the young people are asked what was the best bit, what was the worst bit and what was the funniest bit. So, if I tell you the funniest bit for them was seeing me drop my phone over the side of the boat in the marina you can imagine the hilarity that was had by all.

Finally, I reflected on their journey on the way home and just reinforced that everything we do does truly make a difference to them. Because they talked about their Oncologist, radiologist, district nurse, specialist nurse or GP that helped them along the way.

If you would like to know more about this amazing charity, that really does make a difference, visit:

Sharon Lee QN

Senior Primary Care Workforce Programme Lead

NHS Kent & Medway



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