New cancer community support services announced

Pictured at the announcement of the new cancer support service for children across Ireland are l-r: Alice Nugent, The Katie Nugent Foundation; Neil Symington, Director of Services Cancer Fund for Children and Kim Murray, Cancer Support Specialist Cancer Fund for Children. (Picture: Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland)

Cancer Fund for Children and the Katie Nugent Fund have joined forces to launch a new cancer community support service for children across Ireland diagnosed with cancer and their families.

Support will be provided to young people aged 0-24 diagnosed with cancer of which there are an average of 340-360 each year, and one of these support specialists will be assigned to Cork and surrounding counties. 

The partnership between the two charities will see them roll out four new Cancer Support Specialist roles nationally to provide social and emotional support to families across the island of Ireland impacted by a childhood cancer diagnosis. Support will be available to all young people who are diagnosed with cancer, regardless of where they live.

Cancer Fund for Children and the Katie Nugent Fund have been working together for over two years to plan for and develop this new service. In April this year they recruited their first Cancer Support Specialist based in the National Children’s Cancer Service in Children’s Health Ireland at Crumlin to provide informal emotional and social support to children under 16 years old diagnosed with cancer and their parents.

In addition to this, another role will be recruited to provide support to older young people who are in-patients, recognising the unique set of needs that this age range has.

Every week across the island of Ireland an average of 10 children and young people aged 0-24 years old will be diagnosed with cancer. The community-based staff will work with diagnosed children aged 0-24, their siblings and wider families through informal therapeutic social and emotional support, in their own homes, communities and shared care centres.

The introduction of these new community-based staff will provide direct support to young people like Penny O’Brien (8) from Co. Tipperary who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (a bone cancer) in 2020. 

Speaking about her daughter’s diagnosis Penny’s mum Sinead said, “Penny’s diagnosis definitely affected her sisters more than her. She was so young. I feel her diagnosis has had more of an impact on Emma and Abigail because her treatment was so intense. It was a three-week cycle. We would go into hospital on a Sunday night and you might get home on Thursday. Then your back up at the hospital again the following Sunday night, then out again on Thursday.

“We would then get two weeks off, but those two weeks were tough – it’s the temperatures, the nose bleeds, then rushing to the hospital in the middle of the night. Penny would always have either Kevin or me with her. I always felt this was harder on her sisters”.

In addition to covering Cork and surrounding counties, the other community-based roles will cover the following areas: Dublin and surrounding counties, Cavan/Westmeath, along with Galway and surrounding counties.