“The impact of childhood cancer does not stop, so neither will our support for children and their families” Children’s cancer charity Candlelighters has adapted services to support families during COVID-19. West Leeds Dispatch spoke to the Brown family of Bramley …
In such unprecedented times, families across the UK are facing challenges like never before, but for Allison Brown and her family, whose lives have already been turned upside down, COVID-19 is making life more difficult than ever.
Having a child diagnosed with cancer is devastating for any family, but having to receive this horrific news twice within your child’s first four years is acutely difficult.
That is what Allison Brown and Joseph Richardson had to deal with when their daughter Hannah, relapsed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in 2019.
Hannah was first diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia when she was just 11 months old. After responding well to her treatment, Hannah enjoyed a period of time feeling well, meeting every new milestone and enjoying school with her friends.
However, in 2019 Hannah reacted severely after contracting Chicken Pox to the extent that she was placed on a ventilator for a week, fighting for her life. Hannah’s Mum, Allison said:
“There were times when we wondered if Hannah was actually going to make it.”
Following investigations, doctors discovered that Hannah had relapsed and her leukaemia had returned. Just days before Christmas, Hannah was re-admitted to Leeds Children’s Hospital.
Whilst Hannah was in hospital, Allison and Joseph continued to struggle with their daughters’ diagnoses and the additional challenges presented by Covid-19.
New hospital restrictions mean that only one parent can be on the ward with their child and they must remain there permanently to avoid bringing the virus to the ward. Parents cannot leave the ward for food, drinks or a change of clothes. Allison said:
“The new restrictions made things extremely hard whilst Hannah was back in hospital as we weren’t able to properly comfort each other or even just give each other a hug. We felt ripped apart.”
Allison and Joseph heard about Candlelighters when Hannah was first diagnosed at 11 months old.
They were approached by one of the Candlelighters team on the ward, who discussed the various support services they could access.
During this current crisis, Allison and Joseph know the impact of childhood cancer does not stop, and so neither has the support offered by Candlelighters, although much of this support has been adapted and is being offered digitally and virtually.
Alison has already received a virtual one-to-one Talking Therapy, just one of the services that Candlelighters are continuing to provide at this time. She said:
“I found this immensely helpful, even if it wasn’t face to face, it was nice to have someone who knew the basis of what we are going through; somebody that you could trust and who understood what we were talking about.”
Candlelighters has reassured Hannah’s family that there are other ways in which they will receive support virtually during the Covid-19 crisis.
This includes regular check-ins with families, peer support groups and care packages delivered to the hospital in the form of food hampers, drinks and toiletries, as well as a laundrette.
Candlelighters has also increased its grant provision to alleviate the heightened financial pressure that families are facing. As a result, the charity has launched its ‘Together Tin’ initiative and aims to raise £525,000 to continue its extra support during the pandemic.
Allison and her family hugely appreciate the support Candlelighters has provided during both of Hannah’s diagnoses and through the Covid-19 crisis.
“It is so wonderful to have that close connection and focussed, orientated support from Candlelighters. You come to know the Candlelighters staff as one huge extended family. We feel it would have been very hard without the support of Candlelighters and we are extremely fortunate that we can continue to access to this kind of support.”
Hannah is on the waiting list for a Bone Marrow Transplant however, COVID-19 has affected the timing of the procedure and the date originally set has been cancelled. Hannah also has Leukaemia in her left eye, which can’t be treated until she is well enough to have eye surgery, where the medical team plan to remove her eye to stop further spreading of the cancer.
Fortunately, a week ago Hannah was deemed fit enough to go home, with weekly visits to the hospital, and although Allison and Joseph are not sure how long she will be able to stay home for, they are enjoying it for as long as they can.
Allison and her family feel comforted knowing that Candlelighters will continue to be there for their family, and many other families during this challenging period and long into the future.
“Candlelighters have managed to make something beautiful in a very scary world.” added Allison.
‘Keeping the candle burning’
Candlelighters,is asking people to support its appeal to help keep its candle burning and bring light to families in these dark times by making a donation, however big or small, to the ‘Candlelighters Together Tin’.
Head of Fundraising, Leanne Windell commented:
“On 4th May we held the premiere of our Together Tin appeal video which we have made with our fantastic supporters, pure technology group and Seven Video Productions, to show the world how we’ve adapted our services due to COVID-19 and why it’s so important that we have. We hope it will inspire donations to our Together Tin, without which, we simply cannot keep our candle burning.”
To donate to the Candlelighters Together Tin appeal, or to find out more about the ways you can support, visit the charity’s website.