A SOMERSET woman joined royalty for an emotional virtual event held to celebrate Teenage Cancer Trust's 30th birthday this month.

Yeovil-based Tania Shepheard, 48, was the surprise guest at the event, and she gave a moving speech in front of the charity's honorary patrons, Their Royal Highnesses Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, and their mother Sarah, Duchess of York.

Tania was one of the first people supported by the charity after being diagnosed with a rare bone cancer in 1990, at the age of 17.

She began her treatment on an adult ward at University College London Hospital surrounded by much older patients, leaving her feeling isolated and alone, before being told about a new Teenage Cancer Trust unit opening at Middlesex Hospital.

Since the opening of their first unit at Middlesex Hospital, Teenage Cancer Trust have funded 28 specialist units in NHS hospitals across the UK, which bring young people together in a space designed just for them.

Somerset County Gazette:

TRIBUTE: Tania Shepheard speaking on the call

In her speech, Tania paid tribute to Teenage Cancer Trust founders Dr Adrian and Myrna Whiteson, for their work revolutionising cancer care for teenagers and young people.

She said: “The ward absolutely paid a major part in my recovery.

"The atmosphere was relaxed and welcoming, it didn't feel like a hospital ward at all.

"The nurses became friends who would share a joke and a Big Mac with me.

“The main importance of the Teenage Cancer unit for me was being with other young people all going through the same journey.

"You have a common bond and you find it very comforting just sitting there and chatting to each other but giving each other support.

"Even though we were all going through gruelling treatments, we still managed to laugh together.

“I owe the Teenage Cancer Trust so much for creating a creating a ward especially for young people.

"It made my treatment so much more bearable and made sure that I got through to the end.”

The virtual event was not Tania’s first encounter with royalty.

Recalling her treatment, she said: “The Duchess of York officially opened the Middlesex unit and I was there that day.

"They also knew I loved ballet and I was given tickets to see a show in Covent Garden, and I presented a bouquet of flowers to Princess Margaret.

"These were all glimmers of happiness in a tough time.”

Tania finished her treatment aged 19, and on a night out to celebrate the milestone ended up meeting her future husband. Dr Adrian and Myrna Whiteson, and the Middlesex ward sisters Dee and Nicola attended their wedding.

Somerset County Gazette:

PATRONS: Sarah, Duchess of York and Princess Eugenie making a cancer unit visit

The Princesses also surprised their mother with a moving speech about her own contribution to the charity - and how she inspired them to become involved with its work.

Princess Beatrice said: “Mum, everyone on this call has been inspired today by your boundless energy. 

"I think you've touched each and every single one of us with the mission that you have embraced through Teenage Cancer Trust. 

 “Thanks to your energy, as well as everybody else on the call, we are one big Teenage Cancer Trust family for the last 30 years and we will continue to be, with your spirit embedded into the very core of this of the organisation.” 

Princess Eugenie recalled how their mother had taken them both to Teenage Cancer Trust units on their 18th birthdays, and added: “We're very honoured to be here, but we wouldn't be here unless you educated us in in how we give back to people.

"Thank you for everything you’ve done, and that you do for the charity, and for us.”