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Staplehurst: Tom Mackelden sets up cancer support group

By Claire McWethy

An inspirational 19-year-old who lost his mum to cancer is setting up a support group to help other young people whose lives have been touched by the disease.

Tom Mackelden, from Greenhill in Staplehurst, will be using his own money to fund the sessions, which will allow children and teenagers to come together to talk about their experiences and share coping methods.

It comes after he found he had nowhere to turn when his mum Tania was diagnosed four years ago. She tragically lost her battle in February.

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Tom Mackelden pictured with mum Tania

Mr Mackelden, a former Maidstone United Academy player, told the Kent Messenger: “Only being 19 if I had a problem in life, whether it be a girl problem or stuff at school, I’d want to talk to my mum about it. But for the last four years the biggest problem in my life was my mum having cancer.

“I wish there had been a group out there which I could have gone to because I didn’t particularly like talking to my mum about it and my dad’s not really the emotional type. My sister had moved out, so it was either keeping it in or talking to friends, but I didn’t want to bring the atmosphere down by talking about cancer, you just want to have fun with your mates.

“I thought surely there’s people my age going through the same thing. They might not be able to talk to an adult, but in a group run by a teenager, surrounded by other people their own age, they may open up.”

Chloe, Tom and Lee Mackelden at a charity football match in honour of Tania

The details of the Life After Cancer Support sessions are still being finalised, but the first is expected to take place at Staplehurst Village Centre in High Street on Sunday, June 4.

The group will help young people going through an experience with cancer, from knowing someone living with the disease to being diagnosed themselves, as well as dealing with loss.

Mr Mackelden has also enrolled as a Cancer Research UK ambassador, and raised £15,500 for the charity with a football match at The Gallagher Stadium and by running the London Marathon.

He added: “Cancer is a big thing in this world and I think people can forget how much it can affect the little ones. That’s why I’m doing it I want to help people my age and younger.”

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