Sally-Ann O'Neill

Peer Support Volunteer Sally-Ann on talking to other parents: ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’

Peer Support Volunteer Sally-Ann reveals why she wants to help other parents going through the same journey as her own family's

It was back in 2008 when my teenage daughter Karen was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). As a parent you always want to be looking after your children, and at first it was such a frightening and overwhelming diagnosis when you’re told your child has cancer.

Then when we started the journey with treatment, all I remember thinking is I would just love to speak to someone who has been through this journey and has come out the other end of it. Family and friends are very supportive, but they don’t maybe have a full understanding of the journey you’re going through.

Thankfully Karen came through it and she’s doing really well now

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A while later the Irish Cancer Society started its Peer Support programme where people can talk to those who have been through an experience of cancer for support and advice, so I volunteered.

All of the conversations I’ve had are with mothers of children going through treatment. Some of them would say they didn’t want to talk to family about certain things or worries they had, or about how family were reacting to them, or maybe it’s their own reactions to the child’s diagnosis they want to talk about.

Others like to know about how you got through it and what it’s like after treatment. They might start a conversation about one thing when they ring you first, and it can go down all sorts of paths, including maybe how siblings are reacting to the child being sick, so it really varies from person to person.

It’s great because for the people we’re speaking to, they don’t have to travel or even have to see the person they’re speaking to, they can do it from the comfort of their own home. People who I’ve been in touch with find it immensely comforting talking to someone who’s been through it themselves.

There are other things that don’t even occur to you until you’re there in that position, and that the doctors and nurses can’t take care of.

We were in Crumlin for five months during Karen’s treatment, and we only got out for two nights during that whole time, so it can be helpful for other parents to talk about the logistics of care if your partner is minding the other kids at home in another county and you’re trying to work out how to do it.

Like everybody says, a problem shared is a problem halved. People worry about things but if you talk it through, and even listen to yourself talking about something, it can help you through your journey or even just ease it a little bit.

Peer Support

Click the link below to find out more about our Peer Support programme

Contact the Irish Cancer Society Support Line

If you have worries or concerns about cancer, you can speak confidentially to an Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurse through the Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700.

Monday to Friday, 9.00am - 5.00pm

Roz, Cancer Nurseline

For more information

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