If you walked into the room I'm in right now you wouldn't find a single child who didn't want to be in school.
It’s not because school is so great (or that these are especially studious children!). It’s because I’m in the waiting room at the Cancer Centre for Children at Westmead Hospital…
As you can imagine, every child here would rather be in school than fighting against cancer. I’m sure that you will agree that parents not only want their child to survive, but they also don’t want to see them fall behind at school.
The amazing thing about the children in this room is that they’re fighting more than a disease they didn’t expect.
They’re fighting for a normal childhood, the kind that includes playing with toys, building friendships, and learning. That’s what childhood should look like.
These children are fighting so hard to maintain a normal life and we want to do everything we can to support them.
That’s why we created the Back on Track education support program. I’m hoping you’ll support it, so we can continue to provide these children and others in hospitals around Australia with a quality education.
Chloe is here in the children’s Cancer Centre at Westmead. She has been working with our Back on Track co-ordinator, Marianne Fernandes.
“We want the children to stay connected to their learning,” Marianne says, “but we’re also going to their schools to help them understand what’s going on… Not only what treatment looks like, but how that impacts on the way children think, process and feel about who they are.”
In other words, Marianne is more than just a teacher she is an advocate for Chloe to her school, educating the teachers on how to support Chloe. Through Back on Track, Marianne helps Chloe keep up with her classmates – so she doesn’t feel isolated or alone.
For Chloe, who was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in her spine last January, Marianne is a lifeline.
Chloe has battled a year of chemotherapy, and 30 days of radiation treatment. So it’s no surprise that, “The last year I haven’t been able to go to school at all because I have been too sick,” she continues, “Whenever I am at the clinic, I do a bit of schoolwork [with Marianne]. Marianne also organised things like Skype from school camp, so you can kinda be there.”
It’s not the same as going in person, “But it was still pretty cool,” Chloe says.
Another child benefiting from the Back on Track program is Brendan. Brendan was 10 when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
"When you first get the diagnosis, you think of the medical side of it, you don’t think of school until it starts, and then you think, what do you do?”
His mother Janelle went on in tears, “They are more than just teachers. Without them, I don’t think my son Brendan could’ve gotten through the last two years.”
Back on Track has been operating at Westmead and other hospitals around Australia for more than a decade and is funded by Fight Cancer Foundation.
Last year, Fight Cancer Foundation’s Back on Track program supported more than 1,500 children and young people to stay engaged with their education while they received treatment for cancer.
However, we need help from people like you to continue supporting children and young people living with cancer to reach their educational potential.
We can give children a sense of a normal childhood, in this small yet powerful way through our Back on Track program. With your help, together we’ll give them a vital road connecting them to their education.
"I’m looking forward to going back to school with my friends this year,” Chloe says, “being a bit more normal will be good.”