CANCER patients who face telling their young children about their illness will be able to get their hands on brilliant new flashcards to help shine a light through tough times, thanks to NHS backing.
The East of England Cancer Alliances have joined forces with two talented young mums living with secondary cancers, who designed the unique, colourful flashcards to help face difficult conversations with their own children.
Nicola Owen and Jennifer Pope met after treatment for breast cancer and devised the bright picture cards, including games and puzzles, to help children understand what it means to have a cancer patient in the family and to explain some of the words and challenges.
Utilising Jennifer’s skills as a design teacher and Nicola’s knowledge as an NHS nurse, they have worked remotely with NHS patients during lockdown to create new, tailor-made packs designed specifically for when a Mummy, Daddy or Loved One has cancer.
Aimed at children from three to ten, the cards explain different types of cancer and words like consultant, oncologist, surgeon, and chemotherapy, as well as tackling issues like symptoms and wigs.
The new products will be launched at a special (socially distanced) event on Saturday 3 July ahead of the NHS 73rd birthday celebrations on Monday. Families who have experienced a cancer diagnosis will be invited to preview them at Maggie’s, a charity providing free cancer support and information, at their Addenbrooke’s Hospital-based centre in Cambridge.Jennifer and Nicola will attend with their families as Maggie’s offers a mini Family Day including the services of their art therapist, support team and a special guest therapy dog, Abi – a two year old labradoodle with experience of working with children and young adults facing a range of challenges at home and school.
Maggie’s Centre Head, Lisa Punt, said: “We know that one of the first things parents say when they get a cancer diagnosis is, what am I going to tell the children?
“People can feel lost for words. We offer specialist support including art therapy to help them and their children express themselves. The flashcards are a fantastic way to make this easier at home.”
Little C Club co-creator Jennifer, whose children are aged nine and five, said: “Nic and I met at the start of the pandemic so this has been an epic year for us and for the NHS.
“We created the flashcards because we couldn’t find anything on the market to help us talk with our own children about everyday cancer words and things they might see or hear in hospital. We wanted to make sure they felt included and safe and could talk about any worries. We had no idea that the Little C Club would strike a chord with so many people.”
Nicola, who has two children aged five and three, said: “We wanted something bright and cheerful that they would want to pick up and play with as well as prompting tough questions.
“We are absolutely delighted that we have been able to work with other families in similar situations and with experts to make the cards even better.”
The East of England Cancer Alliances, which work as part of the NHS with partner organisations across the region, will now be making the new packs available in local NHS hospitals, cancer clinics and community settings to ensure that as many families as possible can benefit. They will also continue to support Little C Club to develop further products for other NHS patient groups, such as older children, ethnically diverse groups and in other languages.
Nick Hulme, Chief Executive at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust and chair of the East of England Cancer Alliance (North) said: “I know from personal experience that a cancer diagnosis in the family can be a devastating experience. It can be difficult for adults as well as children to understand what is happening and to explain symptoms and treatments.
“It can be a scary time and finding the right words is tough. The flashcards are bright and uplifting and a format that children can relate to. They explain things and open up conversations.
“The Cancer Alliance team recognised straightaway that the Little C flashcards met a real need to help families talk about cancer and express their worries and we are proud to be supporting them for the benefit of NHS patients.“It is great to be able to launch the new products ahead of the NHS’s 73rd birthday, following an incredibly tough year.
“As the nation says a big thankyou to the NHS, it is a real credit to NHS staff that cancer services were able to continue throughout the pandemic and are now working extra hard to meet demands.”
The Little C Club has attracted interest from major cancer charities and has won backing from big names on social media, including Liz O’Riordan, the Suffolk-based former breast cancer surgeon who developed breast cancer and now writes and speaks on the subject.
Liz said: “On the weekend of the Big Thankyou to the NHS, I am delighted to see that the Cancer Alliance is harnessing the talents of Jen and Nic to ensure that Little C flashcards are widely available for families going through what can be the toughest time of their lives.”
Watch these short video clips, about the launch of the Little C flashcards: