Monday 21 March, 2022

Talking to Children About Cancer

Nicola Owen is Co-founder of The Little C Club alongside Jennifer Pope, which they founded after being diagnosed with secondary breast cancer. The Little C Club helps parents talk to their children about cancer.

Nic and Jen run The Little C Club, a company that specialises in creating cards that help explain cancer to children. Here’s their story…

Balancing Cancer and Motherhood

We met just before the first lockdown hit back in 2020, at a weekend retreat for younger women with secondary breast cancer. Jen is an assistant head teacher and mum to Eliza, 10 and Albie, six, and Nic (me), a NHS nurse and mum to Dylan, six,  and Poppy, four.  

Living with secondary breast cancer is a real balancing act and sometimes it takes someone in the same boat to truly understand. We thrive on normality, our jobs and our busy lifestyles, but at the very same time we need reprieve, a chance to acknowledge our illness and a chance to rest. 

We had both gone to the retreat in the hopes of meeting others in similar situations and finding out as much as we could about cancer. The weekend surpassed our expectations and we met lots of incredible women, but most importantly, we each came away with a friend that just got it. 

One of the most devastating things as parents is knowing that our diagnosis has huge implications for our children. We wanted to find a way to talk about cancer, to ensure that when questions arose, they felt comfortable asking them, and make sure they felt included in such a significant part of our daily lives. We also wanted to make sure to do this in a positive and empowering way. Cancer as a subject is surrounded by fear and many adults find it very difficult to talk about it.  We didn’t want this to be the case with our children. 

An Idea Was Born 

When lockdown hit, like the rest of the world, we were forced into a very different routine. Home schooling, working from home and not very many places to hide from our diagnosis meant that the normality of everyday life we thrived on had been suddenly snatched away and we hadto adjust to a new reality all over again.

Thankfully, Jen and I had each other to lean on and we spent many evenings chatting and laughing together virtually. As our friendship continued to grow there was a subject we just kept coming back to; we had yet to find the right way to broach the subject of cancer with our children. 

We learnt some great techniques at the retreat but the resources shared just didn’t feel right. We began sharing ideas for what would soon become an A-Z of cancer. Each letter was carefully thought out, turned into a flashcard and the imagery and bright colours helped bring them to life. 

The cards were such a hit with our own children that we decided to see if they could be of benefit to others. The small batch of cards we produced sold out within days and ‘The Little C Club’ was born. Things developed very quickly; from there we were able to produce a much larger batch of cards and soon we were working alongside well-known charities and NHS professionals to reach more families. 

The cards have been so well received by families and professionals alike. They are bright, colourful and interactive making the conversation about cancer less daunting and helping families communicate more openly. It was important to us that we kept the cards non-site specific and the combination of imagery and wording means they are usable with a wide age range.

We continue to work hard at ‘The Little C Club.’ We have learnt along the way that not talking to children about a cancer diagnosis can be so detrimental to their emotional well-being. It can make them feel lost, isolated and alone, which is the last thing anyone wants as a parent.  We’re determined to  ensure all families facing a cancer diagnosis have access to our resources.

Nicola Owen is Co-founder of The Little C Club alongside Jennifer Pope, which they founded after being diagnosed with secondary breast cancer. The Little C Club helps parents talk to their children about cancer.

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