30 Under 30: Emma Sutherland

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Emma Sutherland and Mum, Rosie, on the grass.

For any 13 year old, finding out a parent has cancer would be pretty much the worst, and Emma Sutherland’s experience was no different. When her mum, Rosie, broke the news to Emma (now 16) and her sister in 2012, Emma found it difficult to take everything in.

‘I have no recollection of what I actually felt, because I didn’t feel anything. I was just numb for so long, because I couldn’t comprehend – I didn’t know how to accept it’ she said in an interview for YouthLink Scotland in 2014.

Emma Sutherland hiding behind a copy of her bookBut, of course, because she’s a complete boss, once Emma came to terms with what was happening to her mum, she pretty much immediately took action to help others in her situation.

It didn’t take long before she had transformed her experiences and new-found knowledge into a one-of-a-kind book aimed at helping teenagers and young people cope with a parent who has cancer. When she started a Facebook page with the book’s name, Eek, My Mummy Has Breast Cancer!, it became obvious that she a hit on her hands even before it was published.

Emma told Good Morning Britain that what inspired her to write the book was ‘the fact that when I looked for information or when I went online and typed in “breast cancer”, “what is breast cancer?” there was nothing I could understand, and that just didn’t seem right to me.

‘I needed something that I could relate to, because I felt so isolated I needed to know I wasn’t the only one going through this.’

The book has sold thousands of copies and is available in schools and libraries across Scotland. It is also stocked widely by cancer centres like Maggie’s Centre, whose Edinburgh team supported Emma while she wrote the book.

Emma Sutherland with Union J after winning her YoungScot awardRosie was given the all clear shortly after her surgery, but Emma and her family faced even more scary health crises: Emma’s stepdad was diagnosed with skin cancer last year, and Emma had two scares of her own – both of which turned out to be benign cysts (phew!).

But Emma has continued to fundraise and promote her book, and has even talked about writing a second someday. Her dedication hasn’t gone unnoticed: her story has been featured in countless news articles, she was a 2014 YoungScot Award winner for health, and received both a Diana Award and a Points of Light award that same year.

With all of that in mind, we can only imagine how difficult it was to study for exams, but naturally she completely slayed those, too – five As and two Bs (yaass Emma!) Today Emma’s enjoying time with her family and friends, hanging out or playing the piano – when she’s not revising for her higher exams, that is.

We say don’t worry too much about exams, Emma, you’ve definitely got this.


Find out more about Eek, My Mummy Has Breast Cancer! and Emma’s story on her website, and follow her on twitter at @EekMummysCancer. You can order your own copy of the book, and all of the proceeds go to the wonderful Maggie’s Centre!

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