COVID-19 takes its toll on kids with cancer

As the coronavirus pandemic triggers greater isolation measures, thousands of children with cancer and their families have been forgotten.

Redkite, Australia’s leading children’s cancer support organisation, is hearing from families from all walks of life who are now experiencing unprecedented levels of distress caused by COVID-19, with the life of their immunocompromised child under greater threat than ever before.

Redkite’s CEO, Monique Keighery, said these families were the unseen collateral damage of the virus and that Redkite’s counselling service, delivered by telephone, video and email, was one of the few places left these forgotten families could turn to when other face-to-face services had shut down.

“As if it’s not tough enough having a child with cancer, parents are telling us they’re overwhelmed by concern for the health of their vulnerable and immunocompromised child, alongside being hit with job losses and business closures when they can least afford it financially and emotionally.

“What was already an unimaginable and challenging time for families is being compounded by being separated from their support networks like grandparents and friends. These families are running out of people to turn to and the community has no idea how vulnerable they are” Ms Keighery said.

The organisation is bracing for a surge in demand for its remote-access counselling the longer families spend in isolation, with Redkite’s specialist childhood cancer bereavement service now the only option many families have left to manage their grief.

“Cancer still kills more children in Australia than any other disease, with three children and adolescents dying every week. So it’s beyond heartbreaking that right now because of COVID-19, parents are burying their children without the comfort of their families and friends around them.

“Our remote-access counselling service, designed over a decade ago to support rural and regional families on return home from hospital, is now a lifeline for all families facing their child’s cancer – whether they are newly diagnosed families, going through rigorous treatment, or are grieving the loss of their child.

“At a time when the world thinks that COVID-19 doesn’t impact children, the community needs to understand the devastating impact this virus is having on the families of kids with cancer.

“These families can’t be forgotten and left to cope alone. They need their local communities more than ever. Please reach out to those in your neighbourhood who are working so hard to keep their sick children safe; limit your purchase of essential goods like hand sanitiser and tissues, and please, please stay home.” 

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