What are things like for our families at the moment?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a particularly detrimental emotional effect on children with cancer and their families, right from the very beginning. Families already facing unimaginably awful circumstances have had to deal with extended periods of separation, anxiety and financial hardship. Navigating a global pandemic whilst caring for a child with cancer has not become any easier with time.

Since March 2020 and to this day, only one family member can accompany a child staying on the oncology wards at Leeds Children’s Hospital, to limit footfall in the hospital during the pandemic. Parents are only able to swap after a minimum of five days staying on the ward, and are unable to be together as a family. This means that children can only see one parent every five days and partners cannot spend any time together – separated potentially for months, whilst they take turns to be with their child. Depending on the child’s course of treatment, in order to minimise risk to the child, the parent staying on the ward may not even be able to leave the room to get their own food and drink. Siblings and grandparents may also be separated from the child for quite some time: a heart-wrenching situation for all involved. We have seen that this separation can be particularly distressing for newly diagnosed families just coming to terms with a child’s diagnosis.

The mental health and wellbeing of our families is at a critical stage. Usual support systems of friends and extended family are reduced, if not completely cut off, and no one knows for how long this may continue.

‘Restrictions at the hospital made things extremely hard as we weren’t able to properly comfort each other or even just give each other a hug. We felt ripped apart.’ – Mum

 

How are we helping them?

Throughout the pandemic, we have listened to how our families feel and responded by adapting our services to support them in the areas most needed. We’ve recently increased the number of front-line Family Support Workers on the oncology wards and clinic at Leeds Children’s Hospital, providing families with a comforting, friendly face with whom they can speak about anything and everything. These workers help families access our well-being sessions, adults and children’s talking therapies, and peer support groups. They offer practical support on the ward by occupying children so parents can take a much-needed break, avoiding exhaustion, and also help relieve pressure from NHS staff at the hospital, ensuring children can receive the highest standard of cancer care.

Following current government guidance, we offer lots of our support services virtually, combatting the isolation families may feel if they are at home. Our virtual services have seen lots of bookings and positive feedback throughout the pandemic, evidencing a clear need to reach out to families and engage with them digitally. In certain circumstances within the government guidance, we can facilitate face-to-face groups and meetings, such as for our essential bereavement support groups. To the very best of our abilities, under current guidance, we have also continued to provide memory-making activities for children receiving end of life care, to ensure these families can still create special memories together to look back on.

With our family support centre, The Square, remaining closed, we have put together ‘New Patient Packs’ for all newly diagnosed families that explain and demonstrate the support available to families; making those first days in hospital slightly less daunting. We’ve also provided families on the ward with essentials like grocery shopping, toiletries, and clean laundry where they have been unable to leave the wards to arrange this themselves.

In response to the heightened financial concerns families have been facing, we increased our financial hardship grants at the beginning of the pandemic and have continued to provide these to families in need, throughout.

‘It has been the hardest year of my life, but I would have been in a much darker place if I didn’t have the support of Candlelighters, my family and my friends. You have eased burdens, given a tired parent a well-deserved break, and you have put smiles on ours and every other child’s face.’ – Mum

 

Why do we need your help?

We have supported the families of children with cancer in Yorkshire for over 40 years and never has this support been more vital than today. The COVID-19 pandemic is the single biggest threat to our charity and the care that we provide that we have ever witnessed.

Since the beginning of the first UK lockdown, our income has been devastated, and we predict it will take several years for this to recover to pre-pandemic levels. We must continue to support families, now and long into the future.

We rely on your generous donations and fundraising to provide this support. We are determined not to let families face the road ahead, alone, but we need your help so that we can be there. If you can, please donate or help us by fundraising in any way you choose. Now, more than ever, your support means the world to both our families and us.

‘Without Candlelighters we would be able to provide the basic care, but we wouldn’t be able to provide the absolutely excellent care that we do at the moment’ – Dr Bob Phillips, Honorary Consultant in Paediatric and Teenage and Young Adult Oncology

‘For anyone thinking of supporting Candlelighters by fundraising, I would say ‘do it’. Charities need our help more than ever before; Candlelighters helps keep those smiles shining on our amazing children’s faces and lifts the practical and emotional strains from the parent’s shoulders. Every little helps.’ – Grandparent

 

Please see below for some ways you can help families at the moment.

 

Make a Donation

By making a donation, big or small, you will help to support our services for families facing childhood cancer in Yorkshire.

Click Here

Give a Regular Gift

A monthly donation will provide stability to Candlelighters through these turbulent times, ensuring our support to families can continue, now and long into the future.

Click Here

Use your Imagination

It is vital for our charity that our amazing supporters continue to imagine new and unique ways to fundraise. Whatever you choose to do, our team will be here to support you every step of the way.

Click Here

Take part in The Great Yorkshire Challenge

Do The Great Yorkshire Challenge and support a Great Yorkshire Charity. Get your flat cap on and come up with a Yorkshire-themed fundraiser to help families across the region.

Click Here

Take on a Challenge

With all of the mass participation events we had planned this year postponed or cancelled, this has had a huge impact on our fundraising. Could you take on a virtual challenge instead or create your own, to help raise funds for our families?

Support us through your Workplace

Can your place of work be the spark that keeps our candle burning? Let us know where you work and we can help you to fundraise and support our families.

Click Here