Of all the British Invasion bands leading the mid-century music frenzy that made universal rock gods out of young guys in tight trousers, it was The Who that best addressed that teenage hormonal stew of rage, angst, and loneliness, transforming it into the sound of unified teen rebellion. Who knows how many misunderstood teenagers they’ve helped, even today, just by being there when needed, on headphones?
Now the band’s two surviving original members, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, are providing another crucial voice for teens in need with their new charity, Who Cares: Teen Cancer America, which targets the unique issues of cancer patients between the ages of 13 to 24.
Building on the 22 years of hard work and success of U.K. nonprofit Teenage Cancer Trust, Teen Cancer America’s purpose is to create state-of-the-art facilities within hospitals to administer age-appropriate medical and mental-health treatment and build communities for what can be the loneliest of journeys, especially for teenagers.
Says singer Daltrey: “Over the years I have met many young people with cancer and have been inspired by their unfaltering spirit, optimism and lust for life. I believe that we should do all we can to ensure that they can still be young people first and cancer patients second.”
While around a million and a half Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year, about 70,000 of those are adolescents and young adults. But the way patients in this age group are handled embodies the teenage predicament itself: Are they still kids or grown up? Teens up to 18 years of age are often placed with younger children in pediatric units, while people in their early 20s are treated with adults much older than themselves.
Teen Cancer America hopes to address this gap in treatment. According to Dr. Gerald Grant, a member of the Board of Advisors for Teen Cancer America and Associate Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at Duke Children’s Hospital:
“The launch of Teen Cancer America…will benefit so many who every day face unique challenges related to coping with cancer at the same time as trying to develop self-image and autonomy, complete an education, obtain employment, and navigate personal relationships. There has been growing support in the U.S. from the medical profession and a movement of young people and their families who are demanding change. This fantastic initiative needs to establish momentum and then we will really start to see improvement in the quality of life for our adolescents and young adults and hopefully survival rates as well.”
The first Teen Cancer America facility, UCLA Daltrey/Townshend Teen Cancer Program, has opened at UCLA Medical Center, just as the veteran rockers begin a North America tour of their teen-antihero rock opera Quadrophenia. One dollar of every ticket sold will go to Teen Cancer America. To get involved, visit teencanceramerica.org.
Sheryl Farber is an editor at TakePart and a Los Angeles-based writer, editor and three-time Grammy nominee for her work as a music reissue producer.