As they arrive in a flurry of hugs, kisses and warm smiles for one another, Sarah, Duchess of York, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie could be any mother and daughters excited to see each other on a day out.
But the trio are in central London for a very special reason, coming together to shine a light on the work of Teenage Cancer Trust as they launch HELLO!'s special Christmas appeal in aid of the pioneering charity.
As new mums, the trip is extra poignant for the Princesses, as they meet young cancer patients and family members supported by its specialist units. Here, they speak out about why the trust's work is so vital for teenagers going through diagnosis and treatment.
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Having taken Covid tests, and removing their masks only for photographs and when sitting socially distanced with Abigail, Aimee, Mariam and Egon, Sarah and her daughters are full of questions and express huge admiration for the brave youngsters and their families.
"Christmas is one of the hardest times of the year to be in hospital undergoing treatment," Beatrice, who is an honorary patron of the charity alongside her mother and sister, tells HELLO!
"It's a time for family, so long stays in hospital and being isolated from loved ones can feel even more painful. But the work of Teenage Cancer Trust staff is vital as they do their utmost to make the experience the most enjoyable it can be."
The royals hearing experiences about Teenage Cancer Trust from young patients and trust chiefs.
Location: 16th floor, WeWork 10 York Road, London
Princess Eugenie, who is also an honorary patron, agrees: "I was in hospital as a child [for treatment to the spinal curvature scoliosis] and having my family with me at every second made it all liveable. So meeting these incredible young people and the people that brought them through their cancer is so inspiring.
"They are so strong for having gone through their treatments and procedures over the last few years, especially with lockdowns, and their families are too.
"I understand how scary it can feel to be separated from your family and friends. But it was a very different experience – I knew that my scoliosis treatment, although daunting, was not life-threatening, whereas with cancer there are so many more unknowns.
"It's reassuring to know how well-trained the specialist nurses are in giving each young person sensitive and individual care, so they feel loved and supported throughout. During the pandemic, the work of Teenage Cancer Trust has never been more valuable."
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Beatrice listens as patients discuss living with their treatment
Sarah has been an honorary patron of Teenage Cancer Trust since its launch in 1990 and puts it simply: "Without it – this charity funded entirely through donations – too many young people may have to face cancer alone."
It is for this reason, that she is calling on HELLO! readers to back Teenage Cancer Trust to support others going through cancer this Christmas.
She and the Princesses want you to hear the stories of young people like Abigail Jacobs, 13, from Borehamwood, Herts, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia after spending last Christmas in hospital with a chest infection. She and mum Lara were confined to her room on an adult ward because of Covid, but Abigail was eventually able to transfer to a Teenage Cancer Trust unit at the hospital, meeting other teenagers, specialist nurses and her youth support coordinator, Karl.
She says: "He was great. When I was sad about losing my hair, he sat down with me and told me what to expect and he said it was okay for me to be feeling how I was feeling. He reassured me that it would grow back. It's a big thing and some days it's scary, but I try really hard to look at the positives that come out of it."
"Wow, incredible," Beatrice tells her.
Abigail pictured with her mother, Lara
Told Abigail's birthday is 29 March, Eugenie, who celebrates her birthday on 23 March, replies: "Yay, Aries! That's the best star sign."
Mum Lara tells Sarah: "She was showing symptoms around Christmas time. We knew something was not quite right. It was quite scary and having to sort of hold it in and not show her how I felt – that was hard."
Gesturing to her daughters, Sarah replies: "What's interesting is that these two new mothers here… they say: 'Mum, you know, it's just a feeling.' Mothers know. Follow your instinct, I always say that to you, don't I?" Her daughters agree. "And then it's exhausting!" says Sarah.
"Yeah, then you can never stop worrying," Eugenie, who gave birth to her son August in February, says. Beatrice gave birth to her daughter, Sienna, in September and has a stepson, Wolfie, aged five.
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(L-R) Egon Turci, Abigail Jacobs and Teenage Cancer Trust chief Kate Collins
Mariam Sohail, 19, from Nottingham, spent last Christmas in isolation while undergoing treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma. She is now in remission after finishing treatment in March this year.
"I was always in the Teenage Cancer Trust ward," she says. "I had my youth support coordinator there too. She was there throughout my treatment, right to the end."
Kate Collins, the charity's chief executive, explains: "The youth support coordinators have been more important than ever with Covid visiting restrictions. It's really difficult when you can't see Mum or Dad, you can't see siblings, you can't see friends."
Beatrice asks Mariam: "You're a year on and today we're talking a little bit about mental health and how important that is. What would be some of the things you would say to people that are getting their diagnosis now?"
Mariam was joined by her brother, Subhaan
"One thing that my youth support coordinator told me was just take every day as it comes. Like 'keep swimming' from Finding Nemo," Mariam replies. "Just keep swimming and that's something I still go by every day. If I'm having a really hard day, I'll just be like, okay, I'm not going to think about the future, I'm going to think about right now – everything is okay right now."
Aimee Carter, 16, from Suffolk, is on treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia after being diagnosed in January. She tells the royals she doesn't really think about what might happen.
"That's so strong and brave and inspirational to people listening to this," says Sarah. "They can go: 'Oh my gosh, if they can do it, we can do it too.'"
Egon Turci, originally from Brazil, was 23 when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Now 27, he has undergone six operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, all with support from Teenage Cancer Trust. The web designer tells the royal trio: "I don't work at the moment. Living with cancer makes you feel a lot of stuff. I try to control my mental health."
He has worn a Cruella de Vil top for the meeting and Princess Eugenie tells him: "That film was so good! The music, the costumes. I loved it."
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Aimee with her father, Mark
All of the young people deeply move the trio, and Sarah tells HELLO!: "It has been a tough couple of years for everyone and especially young people with cancer. The pandemic has also blown a hole through Teenage Cancer Trust's fundraising, because they rely so much on music concerts, marathons and community events.
"They need support today, so that they can be there for every young person with cancer now and in the future. Their work relies entirely on donations from the public and every pound really does make a difference, so that young people can get the specialist nursing care and support that they need and deserve."
"Support from Teenage Cancer Trust is having someone in your corner at the toughest time," Eugenie explains. "The physical and emotional impact of being diagnosed with cancer – whilst watching your peers experience normal teenage milestones – can be a hugely traumatic experience.
"Teenage Cancer Trust is unique in being the only charity in the country to provide specialist care and support to these young people when they need it most. It's an extended family that we are proud to be a part of."
Beatrice adds: "Teenage Cancer Trust have created spaces of familiarity and comfort in hospitals for teenagers undergoing treatment, where they can share their experiences with each other in a safe space. I think that's one of the most fantastic things about the charity – the strength of the connections it establishes between the young people and the whole Teenage Cancer Trust community."
Eugenie says of the trust's 28 dedicated units in NHS hospitals for young people with cancer: "They really are amazing places – somewhere teenagers can have some fun and relax."
Beatrice adds: "It's wonderful to hear how much laughter there is in these units; such joy in difficult times and camaraderie between staff and patients. Teenage Cancer Trust have created an environment where young people can still enjoy being young."
Mariam has a socially distanced chat with the royals
Both Princesses have been involved with the charity's work from their teenage years and Beatrice says of its nurses: "They are just the kindest, most incredible people in the world. It's so important for young people not to feel as if they are a number on a busy and hectic ward round. Teenage Cancer Trust nurses have smaller caseloads than regular nurses, so they can spend more time with individuals and families. They're also all specially-trained to understand the impact of a cancer diagnosis for this age group. They are at the patient's side from the moment of diagnosis."
Eugenie adds: "They understand the little things that make a big difference to young people, like providing clear translations of medical language. From speaking with some of the young people, it is clear having cancer is an isolating experience, especially during these last two years, where young people miss out on school, seeing friends and important life milestones.
"The work the youth support coordinators do to help comfort and navigate all aspects of treatment is utterly remarkable. They provide young people with something to look forward to, rather than continually dreading the thought of treatment. It's always difficult to process the pain and heartbreak of what the families we meet are going through, but we are also so inspired by their spirit and determination to see positives in what they have just come through."
"We all want a more normal Christmas this year," says Sarah. "But young people with cancer are facing the toughest challenge of their lives – and they need our support.
"We urgently need your help to be there for every young person with cancer – not just this Christmas but into the future as well. Our work relies entirely on donations from the public, so we really can't do it without you."
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