CanTeen offers free service for Macarthur parents with cancer

Social worker for parents Cindy Wilson wants more people to know about CanTeen's free services. Picture: Chris Lane
Social worker for parents Cindy Wilson wants more people to know about CanTeen's free services. Picture: Chris Lane

Going through cancer treatment is difficult enough, but balancing that with the rigours of parenting is another battle altogether.

Luckily, parents going through cancer treatment can access a free support service at the Macarthur Cancer Therapy Centre.

Youth cancer charity CanTeen - known for its popular Bandana Day - offers a special service for parents.

The service is run by Cindy Wilson, who is a social worker for parents.

Ms Wilson provides "practical, emotional and logistical" support for cancer patients with children aged 12-25.

"Parents with cancer can often be exhausted after their treatments," Ms Wilson said.

"It can be hard to know how to keep being a parent in those times.

"How do you talk to your kids about your cancer?

"We provide support for things like that, I can go out and speak with families and also direct them to counselling services."

Ms Wilson said it was a huge benefit having this service located in Macarthur, so parents did not need to travel to Royal Prince Alfred hospital to receive the same support.

The service is funded by the Baxter International Foundation so it is completely free for locals to access. It runs in tandem with the youth-focused programs and assistance CanTeen is best known for.

Ms Wilson said there had been a lot of interest in the services since its inception about a year ago.

"In the time I've been here, we've worked with close to 100 local families," she said.

"I'm there to create and nurture a trusted relationship with the family and to guide them through an incredibly tough time.

"CanTeen research and other studies show that when parents cope better with cancer and communicate openly, their children are less likely to experience distress and anxiety, so I hope to connect CanTeen's free services to as many families as I possibly can to ensure they're well supported every step of the way."

Ms Wilson said patients could be referred by their doctors, specialists or GPs, or could self-refer to the clinic to access the service.

CanTeen also offers specialist support services at the Macarthur Cancer Therapy Centre for youths whose siblings have been diagnosed with cancer.

Research suggests young people affected by cancer are up to six times more likely to face mental health issues like depression and anxiety than their peers.

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