How Facebook support groups helped two mums cope with their child's cancer

Cancer is terrifying. Treatment is gruelling, intense and can last for years. And when treatment stops, the worry continues; worries about relapse, about returning to work or education, and about starting life again.

How Facebook support groups helped two mums cope with their child's cancer

Support networks

Our families tell us that even the strongest support network of friends and family is not a substitute for people who are facing a similar situation and really understand. That’s why, thanks to Morrisons, CLIC Sargent has set up Facebook support groups for young people, parents and carers. The groups are run by trained staff from children and young people’s cancer charity, CLIC Sargent, and they are already helping 1359 users connect.

Immediacy of access

One mum, Vic Hatch from Gloucestershire, joined after her daughter Mimi was diagnosed with bone cancer. Mimi, now 13, had her leg amputated as part of her treatment. Now her treatment is over, but the family is living with the affects of her cancer every day. Vic said the immediacy of access to the groups makes it a valuable support tool. 

“It is a platform for us to keep in touch and you know someone is always there” said Vic. “You don’t have to respond if all hell is breaking loose. You know that you have some privacy. You can rant when you need to rant. It gives us our own virtual parent’s room off the wards.  We can send a message and it’s a bit like virtually saying ‘does anyone fancy a cuppa?’”.

Strong bonds

Through the CLIC Sargent Parents’ and Carers’ Facebook group, Vic encountered another mum – Kerry from Bournemouth, whose son Felix is currently on treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. The pair hit it off at once, and have gone on to form a strong bond that goes beyond their common experience as cancer mums - yet they have never met in person.

Kerry said: “We just talk as women. Together we explore how we are feeling. And about our relationships, our other children, our identity as mums, our feelings of self worth, our careers, our hopes and ambitions for us as individuals which often get bypassed. We are women in our 40s which is a liberating time of life as your children are growing up. But for us they are not just growing up but growing up out of a cancer diagnosis. But can we ever be truly liberated when we have this constant fear of relapse? It can be so isolating, but my friendship with Vic means we are not alone.” 

Sharing and support

Vic and Kerry use the group to share advice and messages. Vic added: “With Kerry, I know that she has got my back. She would be one of the first people I would talk to if anything happened again. She wouldn’t flap. She would be heartbroken, but she would be a warrior. You need another warrior in those situations.”

Laura Rohdich, a CLIC Sargent Young People’s Community Worker, is one of the trained staff who oversee the Young People’s Facebook group. She said: “These communities are much more than closed Facebook chats. They are another way to reach out to families, to offer our services and to share information. We are constantly monitoring the groups to offer support and advice where needed. It means our families are not just speaking into an echo chamber – they are getting our help and the help of their fellow families in a way that suits them.”

Find out more about CLIC Sargent’s partnership with Morrisons.

For more information, please contact Ellie Agnew, Communications Officer at CLIC Sargent, on 07771824563 or email ellie.agnew@clicsargent.org.uk

About the Morrisons partnership

Morrisons colleagues chose CLIC Sargent to be its charity partner following a staff vote in January 2017 and have already raised more than £5.5million. The three year partnership has a target of £10m that will transform the support CLIC Sargent can give to young people facing cancer. The money raised will provide five new nurse educators, who can educate other health, social care and education professionals close to patients’ homes so they don’t need to travel miles for specialist care. It will also fund Home Hubs next to specialist cancer treatment hospitals, so families can take a break from hospital life or do simple things like wash clothes and prepare a meal. The partnership fundraising will also allow CLIC Sargent to extend the grants it offers to families to ease the financial burden of cancer, which sees each family face an average £600 a month in additional costs.

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