Call for central care for cancer kids after chemo
Cancer treatment can save your life, but it can also cause lifelong side effects that in themselves can be a major burden for the survivor.
This is the message of a new organisation set up to raise awareness of these issues for children who have had cancer treatment in an effort to make life easier for them.
CanCare4Living has been set up by two parents - Patricia McColgan and Garry Owens - whose children survived cancer.
"The long-term side-effects as a result of cancer treatments can include fertility issues, growth and hormone problems, learning and memory problems to name a few," Patricia said.
Lindsey Sweetman (23), from Portland Close in Dublin 1, told of her life-changing side- effects from childhood cancer treatment and what she hopes CanCare4Living will achieve.
"I was six years old when I got non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 1997 and I had chemotherapy for that, but I didn't understand much about it at the time and just thought it was something I would have to go through to get better," she said.
But worse was to come for Lindsey, because a year later she developed leukaemia.
"I had to go through chemotherapy, full body radiation and a bone marrow transplant. It saved my life but left me with fertility issues, hormone deficiencies, and a suppressed immune system," she said.
"This means I can't have my own children, I am on antibiotics a lot, and I am on hormone replacement medication because my thyroid doesn't function."
Lindsey said she only found out about her future infertility when she was around 15 and had got in contact with a group called CanTeen Ireland.
"They brought me to a seminar which talked about fertility issues and I started asking questions around that time," she told the Herald.
"There are various things I would like to see happen but one of them would be a central clinic a survivor could go to for all their follow-on treatments and assessments," she said.
"At the moment I have to go to the Mater, James's and Tallaght, which can lead to crossed wires and having to explain to one doctor what another one is doing. But if you had one chart under one roof it would be easier," Lindsey explained.
Lindsey is now moving on with her life having been cancer -free since 1999.
Patricia added that they hope the organisation will help to raise awareness of the side- effects and, importantly, establish a community of people who can help survivors "navigate the issues that can arise".
"Since many adult survivors of childhood and teenager cancer are dealing with multiple issues, both medical and psychosocial, we hope that CanCare4Living can create links with the medical profession and related disciplines to share issues and concerns," added Garry Owens.
John McCormack, CEO of The Irish Cancer Society, said: "The outcomes of treatment are generally positive, but the issue of long-lasting side-effects among suvivors warrants debate."
Further information about CanCare4Living is available at www.cancare4living.ie