Blog: Friendships made through our childhood cancer experience

Rachel's daughter Suki was diagnosed with leukaemia in January 2017. She is currently responding well to treatment but it's been a tough time for the family, who have been supported by CLIC Sargent. Rachel felt compelled to use her personal experiences as a way to explain some of the many impacts of childhood cancer and last September began a blog called Sukistar. On World Friendship Day she talks about the family's experience of friendship.

Blog: Friendships made through our childhood cancer experience

By Rachel Corbett

Friendships take on many forms through many stages in life. Having a child with cancer changes so many aspects of everyone's lives, and friendships are very much part of that.

We consider ourselves fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful friends both locally and at a distance, who've provided support in many forms. Friends who've rallied round, offering help with family logistics, sending thoughtful packages and gift vouchers, listening to our worries, giving us a chance to offload. 

We've formed certain levels of friendships with the amazing doctors and nurses on our hospital wards. To know familiar and friendly faces when you are going through tough and worrying times is invaluable. These special relationships continue to provide comfort during the lengthy stays and hospital clinic visits, for Suki, her sister and for us as parents.

We've made friends between oncology families who offer support in the virtual, online world. Being able to share stories, experiences and advice, all help to provide some reassurance during uncertain times. The heart-breaking stories of families who have suffered so much can be all too real and so difficult to read at times, but they also give you perspective on your own situation. They make you realise you are never alone, and there is always someone to help provide comfort and understanding.

Without a doubt, we've formed unique friendships between oncology families in the 'real' world, having met on the hospital wards. Special bonds have been formed between children and adults alike. 

We consider ourselves strangely fortunate to have made some wonderful new friends since Suki's diagnosis. Our lovely CLIC Sargent Nurses introduced us to a few families whose children were facing the same diagnosis, all being treated at similar stages through the same hospital. 

Suki and Matilda have struck up a very special bond. Both diagnosed with leukaemia just a month apart from each other at the ages of four and three respectively. 

To go through the hair loss, medical procedures, port access, mood swings, appetite changes, numerous side effects, emergency hospital admissions, general anaesthetics, operations and more with your new oncology bestie helps to normalise everything a little for everyone.

To be able to pour your heart out, share your daily worries, your long-term concerns without fear of people thinking you're not coping is vital and of huge comfort.

To be able to laugh and joke about the strange and unexpected incidentals along the way is essential and at times uplifting. 

Long-term friends are wonderful, so kind, thoughtful and caring, but our new found oncology friends are uniquely special and provide immeasurable support. They understand the turmoil, the heartache, the constant niggles and worries, the inability to plan ahead and the extreme exhaustion you continually feel. In a world you don't expect anyone else to truly understand, quite simply, they just 'get it'.

We are so incredibly thankful to be able to share this bumpy road with such special families and their inspirational children. 

We hope this close connection will provide us all with very unique friendships for the rest of our lives.

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