CHILDHOOD CANCER A 360° PERSPECTIVE
With guest speakers
CLIC Sargent representative
Lucy Northrop – childhood cancer survior
‘CHILDHOOD CANCER A 360° PERSPECTIVE’ proved to be another popular, and inspiring Medsoc Monday. Childhood cancer is a tragic but often treatable phenomenon that affects many families in the UK. Currently, over 3,600 children are diagnosed with cancer in the UK each year. The most common forms of cancer in childhood are leukaemia, lymphoma, brain tumours and sarcomas. Research into treatment is happening all of the time and as a result success rates and cure are an ever-increasing trend. Fifty years ago, three quarters of children diagnosed with cancer died; now two thirds survive. Although diagnosis is undoubtedly the biggest challenge many families will ever face, some childhood cancers hold a reassuring cure rate of up to 99% for example in Retinoblastoma – a tumour of the eye. Despite this, families and individuals require significant support from medical professionals and charities in order to overcome the challenge.
Our event looked to collaborate the experiences and expertise of many different individuals involved in the presentation, diagnosis, investigation, treatment and long term effects of childhood cancer diagnosis.
We commenced with a thorough, detailed account of the varying forms of childhood cancers, death rates, common signs and symptoms and potential treatment options. This was in the form of a lecture from experienced Dr Shankar, a consultant paediatric oncologist from UCLH. He provided us with many impressive statistics on how treatments are becoming increasingly effective and included some excellent graphical evidence. Dr Shankar also demonstrated the aggressive nature of childhood cancers and also the side-effect heavy nature of the impressive but invasive treatments. He emphasised some sobering life-long repercussions of a childhood cancer diagnosis that can often be forgotten about in the excitement of cure.
Next, we were lucky enough to host a social worker from CLIC sargent the childhood cancer charity we were supporting. Working at UCH this speaker was able to impart information about the great opportunities CLIC provides to patients and families across the UK following their diagnosis. We discussed the 4 main ways in which CLIC help – financially, clinically, practically and emotionally. It was fascinating to hear how simple initiatives such as providing rooms for patients and families to stay (such as the ‘Patient Hotel’ opposite Macmillan Cancer Centre, Huntley Street) can make such a huge difference. They are comfortable, safe places for families to stay free of the stresses of travel and expense of renting a room in central London. The CLIC representatives also take time to get to know the patients and their individual requirements. Having somebody to contact and turn to at any time is invaluable to many families. With limited time, we were only able to hear a snippet of how the charity helps – it was fantastic to get an insight into what a great cause the evening supported.
Finally, we were privileged to hear first-hand how it felt to be diagnosed and treated for childhood cancer with the support from CLIC. Lucy was an absolute inspiration in sharing her own experience of osteosarcoma diagnosis in her wrist a few years ago. Her incredibly well-written memoir outlined the multiple hurdles she and her family had to overcome following diagnosis. Lucy underwent difficult chemotherapy, multiple complications including many admissions to hospital with infections and an even more troubling course of radiotherapy and wrist fusion surgery. She admitted would have been lost without support from the hospital professionals and CLIC. She had a very close relationship with her CLIC representative who she describes as keeping them going. When treatment was not working as well as hoped and her mother became increasingly frustrated and began to lose hope in the treatment plan CLIC were able to patiently step in and explain the plan and sympathise with troubles. She describes how the charity were also supportive practically providing advice, accommodation and best of all a friendly face to talk to when things got too tough. Sadly, Lucy lost two friends she met in hospital to cancer. It was having somebody to talk this through with that helped her stay positive herself and maintain the strength to go out with friends to celebrate the end of chemotherapy. Lucy is now back at work and thrilled to have had the all clear from her cancer. She is aware that there will be complications later in life, not least, limited movement in the affected wrist. She astonished the audience with her determination and positivity.
Speaking to Lucy and her father, Edgar, afterwards, it was humbling to learn how much pressure the experience had really placed on the family. Against the odds, they remain optimistic, grateful and keen to spread work of their experience to thank charities such as CLIC and also help other children facing such a tough diagnosis. We are glad we were able to create a stage to express these amazing experiences and would like to say a huge thank-you to everyone who attended. We raised £38.46 and a lot of awareness for an excellent charity that works alongside families challenged by cancer all across the UK including locally at University College London Hospital.