New flashcards will help Bedford cancer patients tell young loved ones about illness

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(l-r) Nicola Owen and Jennifer Pope

Bedford parents with cancer, will now have the support of new flashcards devised by two mums who have been through the pain of telling their children about their illness.

Nicola Owen and Jennifer Pope devised the bright picture cards, which include games and puzzles, after they met while receiving treatment for breast cancer.

The cards are designed to help children whose parents have cancer to understand what it means when a mummy, daddy or other loved One has cancer and the challenges the family may face.

With Jennifer’s skills as a design teacher and Nicola’s knowledge as an NHS nurse, they worked remotely with other NHS patients to create the new, tailor-made packs.

The East of England Cancer Alliances have now joined forces with Jennifer and Nicola to make sure the cards are available in the East of England.

Co-creator Jennifer, whose children are aged nine and five, said: “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.”

Helping to tackle the impact of 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.

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 cards are being launched today (3 July) at a special, socially distanced event at Maggie’s, a charity providing free cancer support and information, at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

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.”

The flashcards are aimed at children three to ten and explain different types of cancer and words like consultant, oncologist, surgeon, and chemotherapy, as well as tackling issues like symptoms and wigs.

Packs will be available in Bedford

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.

“It can be a scary time and finding the right words is tough,” added Nick Hulme, Chief Executive at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust and chair of the East of England Cancer Alliance (North).

“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.”

NHS 75th birthday

The launch of the flashcards comes ahead of the NHS’s 73rd birthday on Monday (5 July).

Starting with Thank You Day on Sunday 4 July, a national day of thanks and recognition will take place to celebrate the incredible work of NHS staff, key workers and volunteers.

On Monday 5 July NHS Charities Together are encouraging a socially distanced or remotely 3pm tea break to show gratitude to all NHS staff, support workers and volunteers.

While marking all that the NHS has achieved, it is also an opportunity to remember all those who have lost their lives to Covid-19.

Speaking ahead of the celebrations, Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “I am incredibly proud of our health and care staff for their extraordinary work, continuing to treat tens of thousands of patients alongside delivering the biggest and most successful vaccination programme in NHS history, in a year like no other.

“The NHS Big Tea is a great reminder that it is important to look after ourselves and I want to thank NHS Charities Together for helping everyone to take a moment to reflect.”

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