Alex’s Story


Name: Alex Barton

Age: 16

Diagnosis: Brain tumour (pilocytic astrocytoma) on the top of the brain stem that couldn’t be operated on

Can you tell us a little about how you found out you had cancer: Just over a year and a half ago I started to notice that things were going wrong with everyday activities, for example, my right hand side was starting to acquire a slight tremor and as a result I couldn’t write and as I am a guitarist, I couldn’t hold a guitar pick or strum the stings, basic things that I’ve always been able to do were being made difficult by something that I didn’t understand.

On the 31st May 2013, I was on the Eurostar on the way to Belgium with my mum and some family, Mum took a call from my Dad saying that we have to go back to go to Chase Farm Hospital as a mass was found in the MRI scan I had undergone the day before. It was a couple of hours later (after turning around in France) that we went to the hospital and they told us, I have a brain tumour of unknown severity on my brain stem.

How did that make you feel?: To be honest? Terrible. But I was a lot calmer than I thought I would be, I just had to keep calm and happy for my Mum and Dad.

Where were you at when you found out in terms of school, work uni?: Half way through year 10 and had started some of my GCSE’s.

What impact has the diagnosis had on you?: Surprisingly enough it’s made me a better person, I’m more understanding, resilient and caring than I ever was before. As for a while I lost complete control of the right side of my body, I couldn’t play guitar and piano (what I love to do, so it has definitely given me more determination than ever to live my life to the full. It has made me appreciate life and all the loved ones I hold dear, it woke me up to the fact that we only live once! And as my treatment was taking place in America (proton beam therapy in Oklahoma) it gave be a brilliant excuse to gain two stone!!

How has the support of Teens Unite benefitted you?: It has given me many opportunities to talk to other people and share experiences to people that understand what I’m going through, plus all the staff are lovely and a pleasure to talk to!

How important do you think it has been for you to meet others facing similar challenges?: Very important as to me it’s a way of coming to terms with what has happened, not necessarily being able to understand what has happened, but to be able to live with it.

How has belonging to the Teens Unite community made you feel?: Privileged, it has made me feel like I always have somewhere I can go, or people I can talk to if I ever need to. It’s very reassuring.

What opportunities have you been presented with at Teens Unite?: Going out for lunches at posh hotels, skydives and other wonderful experiences that I would not otherwise have the opportunity to do. I’ve been to a concert (with a girl may I add!) and have had a great time.

What do you like about Teens Unite?: It’s local, so if I ever get down I can escape and have something to do, its allowed me to make new friends, it’s given me many wonderful opportunities, it’s given me the confidence to be a normal teenager!  

Why did you decide to do the skydive for Teens Unite/ why do you want to give back to the charity?: I just think Teens Unite is a more than worthy charity that gives hope to hundreds of teenagers, like myself, that are going through the wars! I wanted to face my fear of heights! And to be honest, jumping out of a plane at 10,000ft is pretty cool, isn’t it?