September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and a time to consider the awful reality that parents of around 1,600 children in the UK will hear the words ‘your child has cancer’ this year.
Tragically, almost one in six of those children won’t survive, and the disease is the biggest cause of death of children aged 0-14 in the country. Each year about 175,000 children are diagnosed with cancer worldwide, and 60% of those kids don’t have access to modern treatment.
But in years to come, through raising awareness, generating funds, changing lifestyles, developing research, and the pulling together of all the help, resources and resilience that communities, health services, charities and local people can bring, we can change this picture. This is why Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub recognises the importance of highlighting this month-long focused annual campaign.
Childhood Cancer Awareness Month provides us with an opportunity to raise awareness amongst communities and supporters about what they can do to help these children fighting for their lives and to help prevent cancer. Here’s just a few suggestions of things that local people can do to help and make a difference:
Support and donate where possible. There are many worthwhile charities committed to the fight against childhood cancer, including CLIC Sargent, Children with Cancer UK, Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support, amongst others. You don’t have to give a lot of money or all the time, even a small amount when and if you can afford it can make a big difference.
Leave a gift in your will. This could be to a specific charity, cause or campaign which is committed to helping to research, treat or support children with cancer. This is becoming increasingly popular and is contributing to significant advances in medical treatments.
Change your family’s eating and drinking habits. By supporting your children to eat clean, whole and real foods, eliminate sugars, and drink more water, you can significantly reduce your families’ risk. It is known that at least 35% of cancers are related to what you eat.
Encourage your family to be more active more often. Maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in physical activity can lower the risk of various types of cancer. In Cumbernauld town centre, there are initiatives such as a Community Space which provides opportunities for children and families to become active for free.
Don’t wait around, check in with your doctor. The earlier the diagnosis and intervention, the more treatable cancer is and the higher the survival rate. If you have any concerns about symptoms displayed by your child, no matter how small or trivial it may seem, see your GP as soon as possible. It’s always better to be safe and get things checked out.
Educate and inform your children. Communicating the risks and health consequences of unhealthy behaviours such as tobacco, alcohol and unsafe sex in an appropriate and sensible way can make all the difference in reducing your child’s risk of cancer.
Look out for other families. Remember that some children or families experiencing health or social inequalities or deprivation in the Cumbernauld area may not recognise or understand the signs or risks of cancer. Take time to give them information and refer them to an agency or health service that may be able to help them – you could just save a life.
Be compassionate and understanding. Be kind, empathetic, supportive and non-judgemental to the plight and suffering that families going through cancer may be experiencing, regardless of how things may seem on the surface. Just by being there as a friend, parent, guardian, carer, colleague, adviser, volunteer or health worker can make all the difference in a child’s recovery.
Make a child or family’s dream come true. If you can help a child or family going through cancer to realise a dream or receive a gift, the spirit of recovery and hope becomes stronger. It doesn’t even have to be a massive thing or something that costs a lot of money. Just a day at the park or swimming pool or cinema can help with distraction and focusing the child on something positive. Organisations like the Make a Wish Foundation may be able to help.
Never give up hope and keep fighting. In the UK, 91% of children survive cancer for one year and 82% survive for more than five years. Remember that more children and families are beating cancer every single year. There are some amazing recovery stories on which hope for the future can be drawn.
Some other great ideas on what you can do to help is available by visiting CLIC Sargent’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month page online.
Another simple but potentially powerful thing you can do to help is sharing this article on your Facebook or other social media feed by clicking on any or all of the below share options.