WHEN a child is diagnosed with something as life-altering as cancer, it affects the whole family. Life becomes a constant stream of appointments and treatments and parents quite often slip into autopilot just so they can hold it altogether and get through it one day at a time.
But life doesn’t stop during this treatment, they still have to think about work, bills, mortgages, their partners, other children, childcare and schooling. It’s a lot.
When treatment ends they aren’t completely out of the woods, the cancer could still return, but they don’t have to be in the hospital quite as much. And it’s at this point that families can begin to stop to take stock, but that’s when what they have been through really hits them.
Carey was just 9 months old when he was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia. He went through three rounds of chemotherapy before receiving his sister Aubrey’s bone marrow, which eventually put him into remission.
Naomi, Carey’s mum, found the experience overwhelming. She said:
“When Carey was diagnosed, our entire world shattered. There is no part of our lives that cancer did not effect.”
Without support, children and their families coming out the other side of often long and gruelling cancer treatment, get stuck emotionally and find it impossible to deal with the trauma they have experienced and find it hard to move forward with their lives.
Rockinghorse has helped to fund emotional support for children and their families from the start of a cancer diagnosis and through treatment for the last few years. But because of the growing demand for this service, there is only limited provision once the active treatment ends.
Naomi explains the impact of the counselling support she received:
“I would have never gotten through this terrible experience if it wasn’t for the psychological support I received.
“My partner Simon and I realised very quickly that we would need to ‘fix’ ourselves if we were going to be able to move forward as a family and not let cancer define us and send us into a pit of misery.
“I had started getting flashbacks from the very traumatic time Carey spent in intensive care and the time around his diagnosis. I would suddenly be crying in the street or car and it was having an impact on my daily life and ability to function as a mother and partner.
“The counselling sessions were a wonderful release and helped us make sense of the hellish whirlwind we had been living. They gave me some grounding whilst still juggling Carey’s care and family life. They kept me sane and gave me hope.”
To make sure the support is there for the hundreds of local families this affects, Rockinghorse is fundraising to extend the Oncology Psychology service at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital, specifically for families who may have finished their active treatment but are struggling to deal with their experiences.
This means that other families with experiences like Naomi’s can get the help they need to get back to their lives, one day at a time.
For more information, or to donate, please visit the Rockinghorse website at: www.rockinghorse.org.uk.