WARRIORS star Joe Batley was armed with an array of Easter eggs when he paid a visit to the Bristol hospital which saved his life.
Three years on from his cancer diagnosis, the 24-year-old made a delivery of Easter eggs for young people at the same hospital in where he received his treatment.
In a socially distanced drop-off in the grounds of Bristol Haematological and Oncology Centre last week he met with Teenage Cancer Trust nurse, Claire Lewis-Norman, who supported him through some of the hardest times of his life.
The delivery was made possible thanks to charity Rugby Against Cancer, a charity which provides help and support to those in the ‘rugby family’ affected by cancer, of which Joe is a champion.
Former England Under-20 international Joe was just 21 and playing for Bristol when he received his shocking diagnosis.
At first Joe received treatment in the adult section of the hospital. But he found this challenging because at that time he was the youngest patient by around 40 years.
“It was tough to see, the people I was around were far older and far sicker and it was harder to stay positive,” he said.
“But then I got the chance to have my treatment on Area 61, the Teenage Cancer Trust sponsored unit instead, and I jumped at the chance.”
Area 61 is for young people aged 16-24 and one of 28 units established by the charity Teenage Cancer Trust in NHS hospitals across the UK over the past 30 years.
“Area 61 is a place very close to my heart – when you are diagnosed with cancer it’s so easy just to become the ‘cancer’ person, but I was always treated like an individual there, and that helped me feel more like Joe,” he said.
“I was around people my own age, and I had a space to myself and more privacy so I could have my family, girlfriend and teammates visit me.”
Area 61 is also staffed by experts in teenage cancer care, including specially trained nurses Claire, who he met on his Easter return.
“Claire was there for me and my family every step of the way. She explained clearly what treatment would be like and was a sounding board for me throughout,” Joe said.
“You’d think a job like Claire’s would be sad, but she’s really upbeat, and always had time for a chat – she was a friendly face who was there for me through thick and thin.”
Joe endured two cycles of chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy before being discharged in July 2018. He has since made a full recovery and worked hard to regain his fitness.
“When you are a teenager, or in your early 20’s you feel indestructible – then cancer brings you down with a bump,” he said.
“What helped for me was setting myself little goals. Like after chemo I was so weak, I found it hard to walk, so I’d challenge myself just to walk around the house or up the road.