Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM) takes place in September each year, with children’s cancer charities worldwide taking the opportunity to increase awareness of childhood cancer to raise vital funds to support their work. Around 1,800 children are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK with 150 children diagnosed in Yorkshire alone. Receiving a cancer diagnosis for a child is devastating and is the start of a long and gruelling journey for the whole family.
Every September, we look to turn Yorkshire gold in support of CCAM, and this year is no different. We’ve been campaigning throughout September, encouraging families to share their cancer journey. Doing so helps to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of childhood cancer, such as continued unexplained weight loss, increasing swelling or persistent pain in the bones, joints, back, or legs and development of excessive bruising, bleeding, and a rash which is just a few of the changes in a child’s body that can signal a problem, that they may need medical care.
One family that has suffered from childhood cancer is the Lambert family, who have shared their story.
Mum Lucy told us “Ted was a lively three-year-old when he got poorly in 2019 and was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma. The news absolutely shook us. Before he was diagnosed, Ted had been suffering with sickness and then ended up losing his sight – becoming blind. The news that he had cancer completely turned our world upside down. We had to think of the practicalities of work, the dog and helping Ted through this all.
We were told that Ted’s treatment would be aggressive for this form of cancer and that we would spend more time in hospital than out. We didn’t believe the doctors when they said this, but they were right. Ted spent the majority of six months in hospital, and a lot of that in isolation.”
Ted’s family were supported by Candlelighters from the moment they were admitted to the ward. Lucy said “We had heard of Candlelighters before Ted’s diagnosis but weren’t aware of what the charity did. The Candlelighters Family Support Workers were amazing – checking on us every day and directing us to different support services that were there for us, and staying with Ted when we needed to shower or have chats with the doctors.
I also attended the talking therapy sessions at The Square (Candlelighters’ family support centre in Leeds) while we were in hospital. It was good to talk to someone who wasn’t emotionally involved and it helped me deal with all of the emotions I had at that time. We have also had support from the hospital staff whose roles are funded by Candlelighters – especially the play workers, who were able to see Ted when he was in isolation.
The support we had from Candlelighters meant we could give Ted our full attention and support him as much as we could through treatment, as well as cope with him being visually impaired now. They also gave us so much advice, especially when we were in hospital about all the practicalities and emotions.”
Ted is now six and enjoying life at home with Lucy, his dad and Digby the dog. Lucy is keen that people are more aware of the signs and symptoms of childhood cancer. “It’s important that people know what to look out for with childhood cancer, as we weren’t aware that repetitive sickness was a sign. I understand it’s scary, but it needs to be discussed so people become more aware.”
This September, it’s been nonstop over at Leeds Children’s Hospital, where children from across the region are treated, with the help of Candlelighters Family Support Workers and the hospital Play Team! Throughout the month, we’ve been giving out golden treats and organising fun activities such as a golden treasure hunt, and have turned the pavilion into a golden getaway. Our family support centre, just behind the hospital is a space for families to escape the ward atmosphere, to come for a chat, a break or even for therapy or massages, and it has been glitzed up with gold decorations too. All these touches help the children and their families’ days a little brighter and more golden, helping them feel involved in this international campaign.
For over 45 years, the people of Yorkshire and beyond have enabled us to provide care and support to children and their families as they deal with the consequences of childhood cancer.
CEO of Candlelighters, Emily Wragg, says, “It is absolutely heartbreaking to see the impacts cancer has on children and their families. The disease and its treatment take a terrible toll on a child, causing so much pain and discomfort and can leave them with long-term effects impacting the rest of their lives. We are continually humbled working with so many brave children, mums, dads and grandparents and we are so thankful that the people of Yorkshire donate and fundraise to ensure these children and their families receive the support they need to get through such terrible times.”
You can give happier times to children facing childhood cancer by donating to Candlelighters. https://candlelighters.enthuse.com/donate#!/