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Dads of children with cancer share their experiences

People's Postcode Lottery ambassador tells the father-to-father support group of children with cancer, 'Mind the chaps!', “Don’t be scared to open up and share your feelings".

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Ambassador Jeff Brazier told a group of five dads whose children have all had a cancer diagnosis: “Don’t be scared to open up and share your feelings".

The Celebrity MasterChef contestant and People’s Postcode Lottery ambassador joined in a video call with a fathers’ support group called ‘Mind The Chaps!’ - run by the UK’s leading charity for young cancer patients, CLIC Sargent - to listen to the experiences of the dads.

Joining Jeff on the emotional 90-minute call was group co-founder Tim Sadler, a primary school teacher from Gloucester, who explained how it began and how it has changed lives.

Tim said: "My son Michael was diagnosed with cancer just before his third birthday in April 2014. We initially thought he was suffering from growing pains. He was saying he had a sore leg, so it came as a complete shock when we were told it was cancer.
"My sister had died of cancer when I was 19 so I never thought we’d have to face this battle again and I have to admit when Michael was first diagnosed, I didn’t cope well and bottled up my emotions.
"It wasn’t until I spoke with our social worker that the idea of Mind The Chaps! came about. I started it and suddenly I had a place where I could talk with other dads going through exactly the same thing, all without putting any extra pressure on my own family."

The support group - initially launched on Facebook - is an open forum where dads, all facing similar anxieties, are given the opportunity to discuss and share how they are feeling and coping.

Jeff, who is about to don his chef’s apron as one of the contestants in 2020 Celebrity MasterChef, joined in the group call as part of his role as an ambassador for People’s Postcode Lottery. Players of the lottery have raised more than £9.7million for CLIC Sargent since 2016.

Jeff said: "I know how difficult it can be for men to speak openly about their emotions, particularly during a time where they may feel they have to be strong for the entire family.
"That’s why this group of dads is so amazing, proving that it is actually ok for dads not to be ok. They talk openly and just by sharing their experiences they are supporting one another.
"I’d like to thank players of People’s Postcode Lottery and the team at CLIC Sargent. The funding is making a difference to lives every day."

Also joining the call was dad-of-two Lewis Coombes whose daughter Edith was just four years old when she was diagnosed with cancer. Lewis, a journalist from Southampton, spoke about the fantastic emotional and practical support he’d received from CLIC Sargent.

He said: "Edith’s treatment ended last month and CLIC have really been there for the entire family throughout this whole process, holding our hand at every stage.
"When we got Edith’s diagnosis, I found myself doing anything to keep busy and not talking about what was actually happening. It wasn’t until I came across this group that I was really able to open up and I realised how much I’d been bottling up and how important it is to lean on people for support.
"I cannot begin to imagine how lonely this entire process would have been for the whole family had we not had the support of CLIC."

Jeff wasn’t the only newcomer in the group. Londoner Frank Adams is right at the start of his family’s cancer journey. In April this year, Frank’s seven-year-old son Ryan received his cancer diagnosis and Frank described to Jeff how he felt he has “just been treading water”.

He added: "It just seemed incredibly unfair. Our life completely changed and it’s been really difficult for all of us, even more so because of coronavirus which has meant I can’t be with Ryan in the hospital. It’s also meant a lot of the support groups we could have attended aren’t running.
"I was a bit nervous about joining the group today, but all of the dads have been so supportive and have given me hope.
"It’s allowed me to talk openly and say things I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling my friends and family. It’s been a real release for me. The emotional side of this group has really helped me today."
Supporting the dads on the call was CLIC Sargent social worker Rebecca Fraga who said: "Support doesn’t end when you leave hospital. Groups like this are a great example of back-up from our organisation, making a difference to the lives of not only the child, who has received that cancer diagnosis but also to the families trying to find a new normal."

CLIC Sargent operate across the country offering specialist support to young cancer patients and their families. Their social workers are experts in helping families handle the day-to-day challenges that come with a child’s cancer diagnosis. They are there from the moment a family is told it’s cancer to offer emotional, financial and practical support.

 

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