Alannah's story

CLIC Sargent highlighted the impact of cancer on the school life of younger children during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month 2012.

Our research - No Child with Cancer Left Out - identified a range of challenges that children face keeping up with their education and school friends during and after cancer treatment. We do all we can to help - our care professionals aim to support the whole family through treatment.

This is Alannah's story. Alannah was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic lymphoma in September 2009 when she was six. 

She had to be taken out of school immediately and begin her treatment at the Royal Belfast Hospital.

Alannah's mum, Julie-Ann, explains what it was like for her daughter to be away from her school for such a long period of time.

“Alannah was just starting P3 when we got her diagnosis, so she didn’t have a chance to settle in to her new school year before she had to start treatment. Everyone at the school was devastated by the news and were very supportive.”

Hospital schooling

“There was education facilites at the hospital with a few other kids who were also having treatment. Alannah really enjoyed this as it gave her some normality and something to get involved in. When she got home she also had some home schooling which was helpful, and we kept in contact with staff at the school.”

Keeping in touch

“It was the social side of things that was the toughest for Alannah. She got bored being away from school and seeing the same faces every day. She also had a lot on her plate with the tough treatment. As a result it became hard to motivate her.

“Having no contact with her friends was really hard for Alannah and she started to feel very isolated. Her school provided things like a webcam to introduce her to her new friends, but it’s just not the same as that physical contact.”

Being bullied

“Alannah lost her hair due to her treatment. She was fine with it, but there were a small number of other kids who started to tease her. The school did their best to explain to the other children about cancer, but it is very hard for them to understand at such a young age.”

Returning to school

“As a result of Alannah’s treatment she missed the whole year of P3. She found it really hard to settle in without her friends. It probably took her the whole year to get back to normal.

“Alannah fell way behind on her work and struggled to make sense of things. She became exhausted and very emotional due to her frustrations. This would also have an effect at home.

“Thankfully Alannah is doing much better now and her work is really improving. She seems much happier now that she has moved in to P5.”