Sue Morgan MBE has been an advocate for children and young people with cancer for the majority of her career, but here she speaks for herself, telling us the rewards and challenges of work that’s close to her heart
Early on in her career Sue Morgan MBE realised that she didn’t want to be an adult nurse, she wanted to be a children’s nurse. More specifically, Ms Morgan felt she belonged in paediatric oncology.
This realisation may have taken her away from her original path of adult nursing, but it also allowed her to come back to her roots.
“I grew up with a brother with leukaemia,” she explains. “Working as a ward sister in Cardiff’s paediatric oncology unit always felt like coming home. I grew up with it, I knew it.”
This innate knowledge and understanding of paediatric oncology has propelled Ms Morgan into a career-long devotion to young people with cancer, and it has also allowed her to make this field her home, and her colleagues and her patients make up an important part of her work life.
“I remember thinking that this job was waiting for me”
When she took her first post at the Teenage Cancer Trust Unit at Leeds General Infirmary, as a teenage and young adult nurse specialist, she felt she had truly found her place.
“I remember thinking that this job was waiting for me, and maybe it was,” she muses. ”A lot of things happen by chance, but being in the right place and the right time and getting that job was important.”
The hospital was one of the first to develop this type of unit and Ms Morgan was one of the first teenage and young adult nurse specialists in the country. “I was very privileged to work with such open-minded people at the forefront of their field,” she says.
“I love working with other disciplines, this kind of variety is important when working with such complex cases”
Alongside this role, Ms Morgan initiated outreach programmes for teenagers and young people with cancer, like the Teenage Cancer Trust Find Your Sense of Tumour conference, as well as the Teenagers and Young Adults with Cancer (TYAC) organisation, of which she was a founder member and is still its active secretary.
She explains that TYAC is a “place for like-minded professionals to provide a support system for teenagers with cancer.”
“I’ve learned that life is short”
One of the defining characteristics of TYAC, as well as the specialty of teenage and young adult cancer care is its interdisciplinary nature, which Ms Morgan both enjoys and finds incredibly important. “I love working with other disciplines, this kind of variety is important when working with such complex cases,” she says. Her teams in both organisations are more than a clinical necessity, they are a source of pride and support. “I’m very proud of my team. They are a fantastic group that complement each other’s skills,” she notes.
“It’s an absolute privilege to work with young people”
Of course, an extremely integral part of Ms Morgan’s career – and her life – has been her relationships with the young people around her. Looking back she acknowledges learning a lot from her patients. “I’ve learned that life is short,” she says. “I’ve learned there are some amazing young people out there. They make my job worthwhile, and it’s an absolute privilege to work with them.”
This patient-centred time provides Ms Morgan with some of, what she considers, the greatest rewards of her career. These rewards come both in life and in death. “Seeing your patients come back well, and sometimes seeing them change what they want to do in life because of their experience, is so rewarding,” she explains. “But also it’s rewarding to help make a young person’s death a good death. I always feel privileged that they let me in.”
About Teenage Cancer Trust
Teenage Cancer Trust relies on donations to provide specialist cancer care to teenagers from ages 13-24. This organisation builds specialist units in NHS hospitals which bring young people together to support each other while also being cared for by experts in teenage and young adult cancer care.
The charity has pioneered and developed the specialism of TYA cancer care over the last 25 years, with Teenage Cancer Trust nurses and youth support coordinators working alongside NHS staff, providing tailored, individual care and the best possible support and information whenever it’s needed.