One in three children with cancer were bullied for their symptoms, such as losing their hair, when they went back to school, according to a children’s cancer charity.
CLIC Sargent reported more than a third of parents they surveyed said their children had been bullied for the effect of cancer, such as gaining weight from steroids. One child was even told by their classmates he was going to die.
The report, No Child With Cancer Left Out, revealed as many as 36% of parents said they did not believe their children received the help needed to keep up with school, while more than a third said they did not have any say in how their child’s illness was communicated.
The survey revealed two thirds, or 62%, of parents felt their children needed home tuition to help get them back to school.
The report, published to mark Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, found that almost half of parents said their child had grown apart from their friends.
Josh Hill, 13, from Cheshire was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia when he was five years old, he was bullied when he returned to school and found it “emotionally difficult.”
His mother Lynda said after missing half of year one of his primary school, and bits of his second year, he was often “really isolated.”
“He didn’t like joining in with things with his friends and always wanted to be around me. I would take him to friends parties or activities. He didn’t want to go, but I wanted to take him to help him keep connected to his peers.
“He was really frightened and getting him there was difficult, even though he knew the children, but once he was there, he was OK.” they said.
Oliver Roberts, from Newcastle, 7, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2010. His Mum, oncology nurse Karen and Dad, oncologist Mark, said he missed two years of school due to his illness. One effect of his treatment is he now has learning disabilities.
“Because childhood cancer is so rare people are less aware of the lasting effects, which makes it harder to access extra support services too,” they said. “The first thing was getting him through treatment, but now a year later, we’re thinking ‘oh my goodness’ because there are so many lasting impacts.
“He really needs individual support; he needs someone that knows how to teach Oli because his case is so complex. Teachers simply cannot teach a class of 30 children, including a child like Oli who has such specific needs. He doesn’t just have educational needs either, he has physical needs.
“Children at Oli’s age need to be caught early, or else you end up with a child who is going to be very disadvantaged in secondary school. I know that he can learn, but it’s not without a lot of effort and special help.”
CLIC Sargent’s chief executive Lorraine Clifton said the reports of children being teased and bullied were distressing.
“Sometimes parents, already struggling to cope with their child’s diagnosis, have to fight to get the help their child needs – and they can feel really let down by the system,” she said.
“Funding can be an issue, so we are calling on government and local authorities to ensure children with cancer do not lose out on the home tuition they need because of any more funding pressures in the future.”