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Mums living with Cancer

There are around 50,000 mothers in Wales who are living with a cancer diagnosis according to estimates by Macmillan Cancer Support.

The charity is releasing the figures ahead of its World’s Biggest Coffee Morning fundraising event on Friday 29 September in a bid to raise awareness of the challenges that parents with cancer could be facing and also to urge them to seek help and support.

The charity’s analysis of a survey of more than 2,000 people living with cancer in the UK, conducted by YouGov, found:

  • 50,000 mums in Wales are estimated to be living with cancer and almost 10,000 of these are mums to children aged 19 and under. (2)
  • Three in four people (77%) living with cancer in the UK are parents. (3)
  • This means an estimated 1.1 million mums and 780,000 dads in the UK are living with cancer (4)
  • Overall, there are around 100,000 mums and 70,000 dads with cancer in the UK who have young or teenage children,(5)
  • The average age of mums with cancer in the UK who have teenagers or young children is 47 and the average age of dads is 49 (6)

Macmillan is concerned that parents are having to cope with a range of issues, that includes breaking the news of their cancer to their children, being apart from them while they have treatment, and needing to pay extra childcare costs.

40 year old Suzanne Rees, from Merthyr received the devastating news that she had breast cancer in April 2014.

With only one week from diagnosis to undergoing major surgery, Suzanne had very little time to prepare how and when she would tell her daughter Chelsea, (then 13), about her cancer.

Speaking about her cancer experience, Suzanne said:

“A friend of mine had died the previous year from breast cancer and Chelsea asked me straight out if I was going to die.

“I told her that I didn’t know but I was going to fight it with everything I’d got but I knew I couldn’t make a promise on things I didn’t know to be true.

“It was hard to know when or how I should tell Chelsea. I didn’t have any information to guide me. I got the news of my diagnosis on a Thursday and was scheduled for surgery the next week but Chelsea had an orchestra concert on the Friday, and then she had an important karate competition on the Saturday.

“I didn’t tell Chelsea immediately as I didn’t want to put her off her activities.”

After her emergency surgery Suzanne underwent six courses of chemotherapy and 20 radiotherapy treatments. Severe side effects from the cancer treatments meant that Suzanne was admitted to hospital three times.

Although Suzanne’s treatments finished in November 2014, she was off work for a year in total.

“I was lucky,” said Suzanne, “as my employers were very supportive but I had a lot of unexpected costs. I got a lot of local support from Macmillan and that’s why I now fundraise for Macmillan here in Merthyr – I want to pay back the help they gave me.”

Speaking about the long-term impact of her cancer diagnosis and treatment on her daughter, Suzanne said:

“Chelsea is still nervous when it comes to my yearly mammogram to check that I’m still clear of cancer – we both are.

“My grandmother was recently diagnosed with breast cancer which left me worried that I had passed on genes to Chelsea which put her at a higher risk of the disease.

“It was a relief to find out that my grandmother and I have very different types of breast cancer and there was no inherited risk.

“In a funny way surviving cancer has given me a new zest for life.

“I’ve qualified as a scuba diver and am now the vice chairman of the local dive club and I have just booked my Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) test which is the first step to getting my bike licence.”

Macmillan wants parents with cancer to get in touch and is urging people to find a coffee morning event nearby to get involved in, to help fund its vital services.

The money raised from the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning will help Macmillan provide a range of services to those with cancer, including parents. The charity provides Macmillan nurses and professionals who can offer practical and emotional support, as well as information on how to communicate with children about cancer. It also offers a telephone helpline, local support groups and an online community where people with cancer can get support from others who have been in the same situation.

The charity also provides financial help for parents. For example, in the last five years it has given out a total of £160,000 in grants to people in the UK who needed help with childcare costs (7).

Macmillan helped millions of people with cancer across the UK through its services last year. The telephone support line helped almost 70,000 people, its printed resources helped 3.7million and its 6,900 healthcare professionals including doctors and nurses helped countless more.

Susan Morris, Head of Services for Macmillan in Wales, said:

“I know how much energy it takes to be a parent so I can’t imagine how hard it must be when you’re also coping with the emotional strain of cancer or having gruelling treatment. This World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, we want to bring people together to catch up over a cuppa. In turn, this will raise money to help the mums and other people out there with cancer live their lives to the full.”

Every coffee slurped, crumb dropped and conversation shared will help Macmillan continue to provide emotional, financial, medical and practical support to people affected by cancer.

For more information on Macmillan’s Coffee Morning or to find an event to get involved in, visit www.macmillan.org.uk/coffee.