Macmillan Cancer Support has released the findings ahead of its World’s Biggest Coffee Morning fundraising event on Friday 29 September in a bid to raise awareness of the challenges parents with cancer face.
The charity’s analysis of a YouGov survey of more than 2,000 people living with cancer in the UK found three in four (77%) are parents. Overall, an estimated 1.4 million women and one million men in the UK are currently living with cancer.
Alison Young, a 53-year-old mum-of-one from London, has spoken about her experience since being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015.
“As a single mother, my main fear was for [my son] Billy,” she said.
“I was worried about how he would take the news and how he would cope through months of treatment – and how he’d manage if the worst happened,” Young continued.
“During chemotherapy, I was too weak to do anything so I had to rely on friends to pick my son up from school.”
Young said Macmillan helped her break the news of her diagnosis to her son when he was nine.
“I had no idea what to tell him or what to say,” she said.
“I could cope with my own issues but felt useless in how to care for his emotional needs. Macmillan gave me books with pictures and uncomplicated language to help us talk about cancer and what would happen to me.
“The literature was really helpful because I could give him time to process the news and then he could ask me questions. It would have been hard to have the conversation without it.”
Young faced a lot of practical difficulties with day-to-day living while she was in treatment.
“I had to adjust how I made dinner – cooking and carrying heavy objects was a challenge,” she explained.
“I rested during the day so I could save all of my energy for [Billy] when he came home from school. It was really tough at times but the help I received from my friends and Macmillan was invaluable.”
The money raised from the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning will help Macmillan provide a range of services to those with cancer, including parents.
“Parents going through cancer are grappling with so many challenges,” said Dany Bell, Macmillan’s special advisor for treatment and recovery.
“They are fearful about their own health and navigating treatment, but they are also worried about their children.
“The first step to getting help in these situations is to talk about it and our message is clear: Macmillan is here to listen.”
From its latest survey the charity estimates there are currently 100,000 mums and 70,000 dads with cancer who have young or teenage children.
In the last five years, the charity has given out a total of £160,000 in grants to people who needed help with childcare costs.
Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “I know how much energy it takes to look after children 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.
“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.”
Ahead of the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning on Friday 29 September, the charity is encouraging everyone to find an event near them to get involved in by visiting www.macmillan.org.uk/coffee.