Dawn's Story

Helping a young family from Cumbria cope


The lockdown, imposed as a part of the response to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, has been tough to cope with for many people.

The inability to maintain physical contact with family and friends, the imposition of strict guidelines covering all spheres of life and the loss of familiar routines has impacted on both physical and mental health.

Many children in particular have found the situation alien and difficult to process, especially ones already experiencing stress and anxiety caused by illness within their family.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, 11-year-old Eve McMullan from Ravenglass in West Cumbria travelled to our Barrow Centre for weekly sessions with our specialist children’s counsellor Helen Tickle.

Eve’s mum Dawn was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 and it quickly became apparent that Eve was finding the news, and Dawn’s subsequent treatment, difficult to process.

“It was obvious she was struggling to cope and had feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem.  I knew that we had to do something to help her but when I started looking to try and find some professional support, it was obvious there was a real lack of options in our local area,” said Dawn.

Eventually, she found out about CancerCare and the free professional therapies offered to people affected by cancer.

“The change in Eve since she began her sessions with Helen has been remarkable. Eve is very artistic and enjoys being creative and drawing and Helen’s sessions really tap into that by getting her to show what she is feeling using materials such as Play-Do,” Dawn added.

Unfortunately, the social distancing measures necessitated by the lockdown forced the closure of CancerCare’s centres. However, Eve has been in weekly contact with Helen to continue the work they have been doing together, and, while, the artwork may be on hold, the calls have become one of highlights of Eve’s week.

“Eve really looks forward to her calls and is always in a good mood afterwards which sets her up for the rest of the week. Helen always has a chat to me first to talk about how Eve is doing and then it’s just the two of them.  It’s joyous to see the difference it makes to her. Helen has been an absolute lifeline for our family,” said Dawn.

Over the past 12 months, CancerCare has provided specialist counselling for 167 young people, and during lockdown we have provided telephone counselling for 25 youngsters.

 “I think what makes it so special is that is that is for the whole family. When you are diagnosed with cancer there is a lot of help for you but not so much for loved ones who often really struggle emotionally when they see you going through chemo and surgery. There is a real need for this and can’t thank CancerCare enough for their support,” said Dawn.

Dawn is still receiving treatment and also has sessions with one of our adult counsellors. Her own mental health has also recently been given a boost thanks to her new job with a llama trekking organisation in nearby Eskdale.

“I love being with the different animals especially out with the llamas, they are so calming!” she added.

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