14 February 2022

My Life Now - meet Teaching Assistant Fran

It’s been 18 years since the Trust first set sail – what are the young people who have been on trips up to now? Our 'My Life Now' series shows a brighter future after cancer is a reality. Through the support of the Trust Fran realised she was capable of achieving whatever she wanted.

Fran wearing a bright yellow jacket and blue helmet as she abseilsName: Francesca Howell

Age: 25

Pronouns: She/her

Diagnosis/year: April 2016

When did you first sail with the Trust? September 2017

What you do now? I'm a primary school Teaching Assistant and wrap around Care Manager

Explain what that means? I work with children in year six helping them to reach their full potential in their education. I also often work with children with emotional behavioural difficulties and help them to understand whatever they may be going through. At the end of the school day, many of the children need childcare. I run a team of great staff who provide food and care for these wonderful children. I provide a range of activities and every day is different!

Why did you do want to do this?

I've always wanted to become a teacher. I love the way children see the world and they can bring so much joy. It's incredibly rewarding helping to shape young people's lives.

Fran taking a selfie in the school class room with the kids colour art work behind herWhat's the coolest thing you've done lately?

I've recently moved schools to a more challenging job role with more hours. I'm incredibly proud of myself and have proven that I am capable of doing whatever I put my mind to. It's the first time I've not felt limited by my cancer in any way.

Why did you need the Trust's support in recovery?

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was told it was terminal. It was an incredibly dark time and I almost gave up. I felt like I lost everything. Once my condition improved and my mental health began to rise, the Trust really helped me re-establish my identity. It gave me the opportunity to prove to myself that I was still physically capable of doing what I wanted. It also allowed me to enter a unique and magical environment in which ‘cancer’ is completely normalised. You can talk freely without complex or awkward reactions. You can talk to people who actually understand. This is so powerful!

What part has the Trust played in you doing what you are now?

The Trust helped give me back my confidence. I'll be forever grateful. I hope now to repay this to the Trust as I have recently trained to volunteer on the trips.

What's your top tip for someone interested in working in your industry?

Go for it! Every day is an adventure and it’s so much fun. Never underestimate the impact you can make on young people's lives. It's the most rewarding job!