Parents Liz and Keith are calling on people to support CLIC Sargent during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month after a fund set up in their son's memory topped £10,000 on what would have been his eighth birthday.
Here, Liz shares her story.
“On my 29th birthday they broke the heart-breaking news that Oscar had medulloblastoma, a brain tumour, and told us that it was untreatable in a child of his age.
“It was completely devastating.
“Someone from CLIC Sargent, I can’t remember her name, came to speak to us almost immediately. She said that the charity had social workers and explained how they could offer us extra support to help us cope.
“Me and my husband Keith felt a bit funny about it at first. We’d never heard about CLIC Sargent before. We thought social workers were just for problem families - and we’d never had any issues.
“Looking back, I think we were a bit naïve too. We didn’t realise then how much help we’d need. I suppose we thought - why would we need help when nothing could be done for Oscar?
“It wasn’t until we were assigned Karen, our CLIC Sargent Social Worker, and the help kicked in, that we realised how much we needed her.
“Oscar was in intensive care, and we were sleeping on the floor next to his bed so we could be close to him. Karen’s first task was to make sure we got a bed.
“She also gave us a CLIC Sargent grant of £170 to help pay all the immediate and unexpected extra costs we had to deal with, like eating at the hospital every day, and petrol money.
“Oscar spent five days in intensive care, after that we were able to bring him home and cared for him with the support of the hospital’s nursing team, and Karen.
“From the moment we got home, Karen was like a rock to us.
“She sorted out all the practical stuff we needed doing. Like at the time we were in the midst of changing mortgage lenders and had a holiday booked. She sorted it out and did the other phone calls that we didn’t want to do. We didn’t want to have repeat ourselves over and over again, to different people, especially strangers, to explain about Oscar.
“Karen also kept in touch with mine and Keith’s employers to explain what was happening. Her help meant that we didn’t need to worry so much about all of the day-to-day realities of life, alongside everything else that we were going through.
“Our other son Archie was just four at this point. Keith and I found it really difficult to understand why he didn’t seem as upset as us about things. Karen explained that he was just processing things differently. That something as simple as breaking a colouring pencil one day might make him burst into tears about what was happening.
“Keith and Karen got on well too. But’s he’s a man and not as open with his emotions. She knew how to handle him and to get him to open up though. It always started off with a laugh and a joke, and then she got us all talking.
“She even went to Oscar’s nursery, which Archie also went to, and spoke to the staff and teachers there to explain what was going on at home, and offered support. Karen went out of her away to do everything right and she ticked every box for us, she helped us keep things as normal as possible.
“Oscar passed away two months after he was diagnosed in May 2010, when he was just 21-months-old. He was diagnosed on my birthday, and died on my sister’s birthday.
“Karen was still there for us and helped us organise Oscar’s funeral. It’s something you never expect to have to do. At the time I didn’t even know what an ‘order of service’ was.
“Shortly after he died I remember sitting with Karen outside in the garden and I asked her: ‘If somebody asks how many children I have, what I say?’ I didn’t want to say that I only had one child Archie, as if Oscar had never existed. Karen said straight away: ‘you’ll always be a mum of two’.
“Now I say that I’m a mum of four. After Oscar passed away I confided in Karen that I needed more children in my life. Not to replace Oscar, that could never happen, but I really wanted more. For Archie too, he’d lost his only sibling. She just listened and made me feel understood.
“We had our daughter Jazmyn quite quickly after losing Oscar and it was definitely the best thing for us. It built up that gap in the bridge. We’ve now had another daughter, Darcy. She’s definitely the last! But I’ll never feel complete, there will always be someone missing.
“We talk about Oscar all the time at home with Archie, who is now ten, and with Jazmyn, even though she never got the chance to meet him. We’ll do the same with our youngest Darcy when she’s old enough too.
“There are photos of Oscar all over our house and we keep his ashes at home, in his ‘In the Night Garden’ box.
“You can’t read a book telling you how to handle the grief of losing a child, but the guidance of Karen and our nurses helped us through the worst parts. They have the best book in their heads, but its bitter sweet. Because they only know how to support us because they’ve supported lots of other families who have had children with cancer, who have lost a child.
“Karen at CLIC Sargent was only with us for a short time – Oscar passed away just two months after he was diagnosed – but the impact of that help is life-long. It will stay with me forever. She was the right person for the job and we were blessed to have her."
Support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
This September, during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, CLIC Sargent is focussing on the financial impact of cancer. It’s vital families can access the financial support they need.