September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Childhood cancer affects 150 children in Yorkshire every year. This month is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, a time to recognize and show our support for the children and families affected by this disease. For Rob and Chantel from Pocklington, their daughter Maisie’s leukaemia diagnosis was earth-shattering.

In March 2022, six-month-old Maisie was taken to her GP after blood appeared in her stool and bruising on her leg. She was referred to York Hospital that day, where she was examined and had blood samples taken. Several hours later, the consultant at York Hospital children’s ward informed the family that they had been in touch with the Oncology Department at Leeds General Infirmary about Maisie’s blood results, and they confirmed it was leukaemia. They were to be transported by ambulance to LGI immediately so she could start treatment.

Chantel, Maisie’s mum, said “Learning of Maisie’s diagnosis was a massive shock initially. I think we were shattered by finding out that Maisie had cancer and then scared for the future. We felt numb and often it felt as though this could not be happening and was a nightmare. It felt as though we had done something wrong for this to happen to Maisie or we were somehow responsible. There were a lot of emotions to deal with initially, which was tough as we had a lot to understand about Maisie’s treatment and needed to be there for her.”

Since Maisie’s diagnosis, the family have been supported by children’s cancer charity, Candlelighters, who for over 45 years have supported families across Yorkshire when their child has been diagnosed with cancer. The family stayed at the Candlelighters Cottage, a home-from-home near Leeds Children’s Hospital, so they could all be together nearby whilst Maisie was on treatment. They also received Candlelighters financial grants for the first three months, which could help towards expenses such as travelling to and from hospital and meals.

Chantel said “Maisie spent two months on the ward initially. This was an intense time in her treatment and consisted of many different chemotherapy agents. The treatment left Maisie really fatigued. She also suffered with mucositis, kidney problems, high blood pressure, oedema, loss of appetite, and had infections, including a line infection, but she responded to treatment.”

Candlelighters provide vital support for children and their families on the ward, in their community, and for as long as a family may need a helping hand during the most difficult time. From a much-needed cup of tea on the ward when you don’t have a spare five minutes, to talking therapies for the whole family to process and work through worries, Candlelighters are there from the beginning with a huge range of emotional, practical and financial support.

“The Candlelighters support on the ward was great, as you felt like there was someone to help if you were having a hard day. Every time we were in hospital during times like Easter and Christmas there was always something happening – Santa in the Pavilion, performers in the clinic and Maisie and her sister received a bounty of presents and easter eggs. It’s nice that these things are organised and makes the time in hospital better, it seems a less clinical environment and Maisie, after everything she has been through, doesn’t seem to mind coming. It’s hard to drag her sister away! The Square [Candlelighters Family Support Centre] is a really nice space for time away from ward, there always seemed to be a friendly face and someone to chat to. The massages and haircuts were a welcome change from spending time on the ward and made us feel half normal. We have also attended family days, the Christmas party and Disney on Ice.”

Maisie is due to finish treatment in March 2024, and is doing well with her treatment.

CEO of Candlelighters, Emily Wragg, says, “Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is an important time to gather and show our support for the children and their families affected by this heartbreaking disease.
Around 150 families across Yorkshire receive the terrible news every year that their child has cancer. 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.”

Learn more about what Candlelighters do, and how you can make a difference for children this Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. https://www.candlelighters.org.uk/ccam/
Photo: Rob, Maisie, Chantel, and Abigail.

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