Helping Young Cancer Survivors Celebrate Life
6 June 2023 – In June, as part of International Cancer Survivors’ month, the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) celebrates all cancer survivors and salutes their perseverance with the focus on children, teens, young adults and parents or guardians. Each cancer diagnosis can impact a patient and their loved ones negatively, and CANSA provides the practical and emotional support they need throughout cancer treatment. Receiving a diagnosis as an adult is difficult, but even more so when it’s a child or teenager and it is especially hard on parents of paediatric patients. When a child or teenager is diagnosed with cancer, CANSA TLC offers support to sustain paediatric patients, parents and loved ones as they face their worst fear.
Anina Meiring, CANSA’s National Manager Childhood Cancer Services (TLC) says, “Oncology parents and paediatric patients need moments to enjoy, relax and unwind with friends and family. CANSA TLC staff strive to help our paediatric cancer patients celebrate life, by experiencing moments of joy amid chemotherapy, transfusions, and transplants. We collaborate with play therapists arranging sessions at treatment facilities, arrange fun and dress up days. We also celebrate birthdays and help make happy memories for our patients and their loved ones. Our TLC support is also practical in nature, and we collaborate with Paediatric Oncologists and oncology ward staff to cater to young patient’s needs as they arise.”
CANSA TLC provides food parcels and toiletry packs, and accommodation for paediatric patients receiving treatment far from home and their parents, through its TLC Nicus Lodge in Pretoria at Steve Biko Academic Hospital, Family Lodge (Durban) and Paediatric Oncology Ward (Pietersburg Provincial Hospital) in Limpopo. A TLC Teenage Support room (Tygerberg Hospital) is also available to teens.
Further, support is provided to paediatric oncology wards at Charlotte Maxeke, George Mukhari, Steve Biko, Polokwane, Kimberley Provincial, Port Elizabeth and Tygerberg Hospitals. CANSA provides ports and broviacs, allowing for less invasive treatment procedures; short term lines; emergency support through provision of high flow oxygen nasal canula, needles or dressings as required; medication (in the event that medication prescribed by the Paediatric Oncologist is not sufficient to manage extreme nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation); wheelchairs or strollers for patients who are blind due to cancer or have had a leg amputation; and prostheses (artificial eyes). Food parcels are donated to Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital in Qqeberha and nutrition supplements to Parklands Hospital in Durban.
Meiring adds, “Emotional support is a key TLC offering, with free Tele Counselling being accessible to paediatric patients, siblings, parents and loved ones and individual counselling is given at TLC facilities and face-to-face support groups. We also have a support group for parents who have lost a child to cancer and a WhatsApp support group for teenage cancer patients or teens whose loved ones have cancer. A Facebook Support Group for parents and loved ones – TLC Childhood Cancer Support – is also available. Teens who wish to join a support group, may complete the online form.”
Meiring explains how CANSA TLC was able to step in to help a very young patient, Liam (4 yrs) when they received a request from medical staff to help secure a donor line for Liam’s sister, Payton (14 yrs), for his bone marrow transplant.
“The request for a donor line was received just a few days before the transplant was scheduled at Red Cross Children’s Hospital, so TLC staff set about the task with a sense of urgency. Within one day of the request, the donor line was secured, and Liam’s transplant could proceed. We’re so grateful that we could support this determined young man and his family in this way, especially since Liam has been living with cancer since the age of two and due to damage from chemotherapy to his rectum, had to have a stoma inserted. He has endured many health challenges, but he is a true warrior and doesn’t let anything hold him back.”
Liam Fagan’s mother confides, “When I heard that Liam had cancer, it felt as if my legs were giving way and I tried to convince myself I was dreaming. I kept hoping I would wake up from this nightmare. It has been very difficult to go through this.”
“Our young patients inspire us daily. This is what some of them have to say about their cancer experience,” concluded Meiring.
Agrippa Ngobeni (diagnosed Gr.10), “I never thought I’d live past 18, now I am 25! It seems as if I have much more life ahead than I thought possible.”
Fortune Manama (13 yrs at diagnosis and now in university), “Seeing so many of my ward friends pass away, I know I owe it to them to live my life to the fullest every day!”
Modiphonso Maema (17 yrs – excerpt from her poem ‘I Refuse’), “I refuse to give away my will for life…I refuse to let life pass me by…I refuse to let my dream slip…my existence matters…I refuse to lose hope, to give up!”
(For more information, please contact Lucy Balona, Head: Marketing and Communication at CANSA at email email@example.com Call 011 616 7662 or mobile 082 459 5230.)
CANSA offers a unique integrated service to the public and to all people affected by cancer. CANSA is a leading role-player in cancer research and the scientific findings and knowledge gained from our research are used to realign our health programmes, as well as strengthen our watchdog role to the greater benefit of the public. Our health programmes comprise health and education campaigns; CANSA Care Centres that offer a wide range of care and support services to those affected by cancer; stoma and other clinical support; medical equipment hire, as well as a toll-free line to offer information and support. We offer a Tele Counselling service in seven languages free of charge. We also supply patient care and support in the form of 8 CANSA Care Homes in the main metropolitan areas for out-of-town cancer patients and CANSA-TLC lodging for parents and guardians of children undergoing cancer treatment.
Connect with CANSA on social media: