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Nursing terminally ill teens represented on stage in new play

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The stress of nursing the terminally ill is one of the themes of a new play about two teenagers who meet in a hospice.

The play, co-authored by retired consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Chris Naylor and company director Joanna Way, discusses the realities of caring for terminally ill teenagers trying to cope with mortality.

“The stress of nursing was all too evident when my husband was in hospital”

Joanna Way

The play, called See Me for Myself, follows the story of Stephen and Sally, two teenagers who must learn about love and life while coming to terms with their illnesses. It will run from 3 October to 27 October 2018 at the Tabard Theatre, Chiswick.

A nurse, sister Jones, is one vehicle that authors Mr Naylor, 84-year-old retired obstetrician, and Ms Way, 73-year-old company director, communicate the stress of nursing terminally ill patients.

The sister is faced with care decisions that shape the rest of the patients’ short lives, challenge her medical and nursing ethics, and lead to Sally become pregnant despite her ongoing chemotherapy treatment.

Sally’s pregnancy creates problems for the entire cast, from Sally’s parents to her doctors.

Meanwhile, the character Ms Baxter, a consultant gynaecologist, is faced with this complication when she must care for Sally and her baby despite Sally’s cancer.

The writers said their close connections to the nursing world was reflected in their first play. Mr Naylor worked as an obstetrician and gynaecologist and Ms Way spent much of her time caring for her husband, who had terminal lung cancer, until he passed away in 2015.

“Patients families were under a lot of stress and nurses often had to cope with this too”

Joanna Way

Ms Way said that she attempted to write about her experiences as a journalist, but she could never bring herself to publish an article.

When she received a script from Mr Naylor, the two agreed to co-author a new play about young people with terminal illnesses.

Ms Way said: “We discussed a new plot and I got to work on the dialogue. Writing a play about a young patient with cancer gave me greater detachment.

“The stress of nursing was all too evident when my husband was in hospital,” she told Nursing Times.

“I was also aware that patients families were under a lot of stress and nurses often had to cope with this too,” she said. “A family breakdown occurs in this play.”

Their first play tackles the realities of treatment of terminal patients, shortage of teenage hospices, the stress of nursing, and medical attitudes toward pregnancy in women with cancer.

Mr Naylor said: “In co-writing this play, two passions came together in a meaningful way, my passion for theatre and my experiences of working in the NHS.

Ms Way added: “Our experience in other fields has helped us to create a play that is challenging and different. We are tackling a difficult subject, that of terminal illness in the young, but there is humour as well as pathos in this work.”

According to the co-authors, See Me for Myself will portray the pressure and pain of a nurse for the terminally ill, raising questions about care for those with cancer in the modern world.

A collection for The Teenage Cancer Trust will be taken at each performance.

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