Rachel Lucas from Minster, Kent, whose five-year-old-son Harry is going through treatment for leukaemia is raising awareness of the hidden emotional and mental health impact that a childhood cancer diagnosis can have on families, and the need for the right support.
Since Harry was diagnosed in 2015, Rachel, husband Gary and his older sister Amelia-Rose, 9, have been on an emotional rollercoaster as they’ve watched him go through intensive treatment including transfusions, operations, chemotherapy, and even a stay in intensive care, which left Rachel so overwhelmed emotionally that she couldn’t speak, eat or drink.
Rachel’s experiences echo the results of a parent survey conducted by CLIC Sargent, the UK's leading cancer support charity for children and young people, released to coincide with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM) this September. It found that during their child’s cancer treatment 6 in 10 (63%) experience depression, and more than a third (37%) experience panic attacks. Yet less than 40% of parents accessed support for managing stress and anxiety during their child’s treatment.
Fortunately help was at hand for the Lucases from their CLIC Sargent Support Worker Lucy Hill, who works as part of an independent team based at The Royal Marsden Hospital in London, Harry’s primary treatment centre, offering emotional and practical support to whole families.
Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
CLIC Sargent and the Lucases are now encouraging people to show their support for families struggling to cope with the impact of cancer on their lives by getting a CCAM CLIC Sargent Gold Ribbon pin badge from its online shop, to help fund its vital work. They are also calling for more people to sign up online to campaign with CLIC Sargent to get a better deal for families like theirs.
Rachel says of the emotional impact of Harry’s cancer:
“It was hard to get my get my head around the fact that the lifesaving chemo Harry needed would make him much more unwell to begin with. It messed with my head.
“And when your child is in treatment you are worried and constantly on edge, but Harry is so young that he’s never really understood how poorly he is.
“The worst time for us was when he was in intensive care. We honestly thought we were going to lose him. I was so stressed and upset that I stopped speaking. I couldn’t eat or sleep or function at all. Emotion just took over.
“As a family we were just ripped in half by it all. Amelia-Rose would be upset and missing her mum or dad, whichever of us was away at the hospital at the time.
“You need all the support you can get when your child has cancer. Every parent needs a bit of time just to talk to someone, and that is something that doesn’t often happen.
“I’m not really one to talk about my feelings and it can be hard to say that you need help when you are trying to stay strong for your child. But talking has made a real difference.
“Lucy our CLIC Sargent Support Worker has been amazing, she gives great advice. I feel like I can say anything to her, share any worries, and I’m at complete ease.
“She’s been amazing with Amelia-Rose too. We worked with her to put together a list of things that just her and Mummy do together and she helped her understand how treatment would affect Harry with books and things.
“I don’t know we would have coped without Lucy, and the extra support we get from our CLIC Sargent Nurses too. So this Childhood Cancer Awareness Month please show your support for families like ours by getting a CLIC Sargent Gold Ribbon pin badge and becoming a CLIC Sargent campaigner.”
Support the whole family
Kate Lee, Chief Executive of CLIC Sargent, said:
"Parents like Rachel have shared painfully honest accounts with us highlighting the hidden costs of cancer – whether it’s the panic they feel every time their child has a high temperature, the emotional strain of staying strong for your family or fearing relapse at any time.
“At CLIC Sargent, we know cancer’s impact stretches far beyond the shock of diagnosis and can last long after treatment finishes, this is why we strive to support the whole family, not just the person with cancer.”
For more information about how you can support CLIC Sargent this Childhood Cancer Awareness Month please visit: www.clicsargent.org.uk/ccam
For more information about CLIC Sargent, an interview or images, please contact Claire Monger on 020 8752 2938 or firstname.lastname@example.org