Posted on Friday 8 July 2022
Wimbledon ‘wildcard’ and cancer survivor Ryan Peniston becomes ambassador for children’s cancer charity
While all eyes are on Sunday’s men’s final, the real Wimbledon winner is young cancer survivor Ryan Peniston
“It’s given me a lot of strength and resilience and makes me feel very grateful to be here”
Today (Friday 8 July), Wimbledon ‘wildcard’ Ryan Peniston, 26 from Southend, has announced his new role as sporting ambassador for Young Lives vs Cancer, the UK’s leading charity for children and young people with cancer. Having been diagnosed with cancer as a baby, Ryan has shared how he wants to raise awareness of childhood cancer and help others in similar positions.
Ryan was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma (a type of soft tissue cancer) at just one-year-old, after his parents noticed that he had a bulge in his abdomen area so took him straight to A&E, where he was later diagnosed. Ryan went on to have eighteen months of treatment at St Bartholomew’s hospital in London, including chemotherapy and surgery.
He went into remission after treatment but continued to have annual check-ups until the age of 21. He also suffered with various late side effects, which he says did have an impact on his tennis.
Ryan said: “It stunted my growth so I was a lot smaller than my peers who were the same age. From 10 to 14 I was probably a foot smaller than everyone. I started growing really late, at 15 or 16 I probably started growing so it definitely affected that.
“The other kids who are a foot taller than me all had quite a physical advantage over me. They started getting quite powerful serves and I, a foot smaller, couldn’t really do that so I had to rely on other things like running around, relying on my mental strength and my attitude to win matches.”
Now ranked at number 6 in Great Britain and 135 in the world, Ryan is determined to use his new role as Young Lives vs Cancer ambassador to inspire other young people in a similar position he was.
“The main goal that I would like to achieve as a Young Lives vs Cancer ambassador would be to give hope to the kids and families that are going through similar things because it is one of the most emotional and stressful times of their lives. You can go on afterwards and still achieve your dreams and still do what you want to do in life.”
While Ryan was too young to remember facing cancer, he knows what an impact it had on his family and hopes he can help Young Lives vs Cancer be there for more families, like his.
“It was definitely emotional and super stressful for them. I’m sure at least one of my parents, either my mum or my dad would be there. They would have took it in turns so they were always with me at the hospital.”
Ryan’s parents, like many Young Lives vs Cancer supports, would also have to juggle being there for him, travelling the 40 miles between the hospital in London to home and looking after his two older siblings. “I have two older brothers, one is two years older and the other one is four years older so I think they would also come and see me at the hospital – my parents had to take care of them at the same time as well. It was a really stressful time for them.”
Like Ryan’s family, many children and young people are treated in hospitals miles from home so they can receive the treatment they need. Young people with cancer face a 60 mile round trip, on average, to get treatment, which has a financial impact on families as they then have to pay out for fuel and parking too. Young Lives vs Cancer provide families with grants to help cover the costs of a cancer diagnosis.
Young Lives vs Cancer help children and young people (0-25) and their families to face cancer and everything it throws at them. Their specialist social workers help families from the moment of diagnosis with emotional and financial support from helping to access grants and benefits to liaising with schools and employers, as well as being someone to talk to and to listen to what they need. The charity’s Homes from Home also offer a free place to stay nearby the hospital so families can be together.
Rachel Kirby-Rider, Chief Executive at Young Lives vs Cancer says: “We are so pleased to have Ryan on board as our newest ambassador. Not only has his performance at Wimbledon been incredible to watch and inspiring for the young people we support but the fact he knows just how much of an impact cancer can have on a family, makes him a great fit for Team Young Lives.
“We are looking forward to working with Ryan to help raise awareness of childhood cancer and the impact it has on children, young people and families. And we hope Ryan will inspire the young people we support to not give up on their dreams!”
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