Posted on the 22nd November 2018
Brockworth dad stars in Christmas campaign for charity that supported his family after his son was diagnosed with cancer
Tim Sadler, a primary school teacher from Brockworth, Gloucestershire, stars in CLIC Sargent’s new Christmas fundraising campaign. Tim and his family were supported by the charity after his son Michael was diagnosed with cancer just before his third birthday in April 2014.
Tim and his wife Sarah thought that Michael was suffering with growing pains when he kept complaining that his legs hurt. But one weekend he stopped walking altogether so they went to A&E.
After a long wait and many tests, the family was finally told that Michael had cancer.
Tim said: “When we were told that it was cancer I was in disbelief. My sister died of neuroblastoma when she was 21 and I was 19 – it sounds terrible but we almost assumed as a family that we’d ‘had our turn’ with childhood cancer. We’d just had a new little baby, Michael’s brother, and were enjoying our time together as a family. Then we suddenly had to face up to reality.”
As soon as the family got the diagnosis, Michael began chemotherapy treatment.
Tim said: “Michael had lots of chemotherapy and was also on steroids to help him cope with side effects. In the initial stages of taking them it caused his face to balloon and he was ridiculously hungry. I remember one time I had to cook him a lamb roast dinner at three in the morning. We called the steroids his ‘grumpy pills’ – they made him so focused on needing food and made him ridiculously irrational.
“In the first month his hair started falling out which was heartbreaking. He would also suffer with pains in his legs.”
Michael was on treatment for around three years, taking his last chemotherapy pill in June 2017.
Throughout the ordeal, the family was supported by a CLIC Sargent Social Worker, who arranged for the family to stay in one of the charity’s Homes from Home in Bristol which provide free accommodation near hospitals where children and young people are treated for cancer.
Tim said: “What was really lovely was that our social worker Janet – one of my heroes – was waiting to welcome us on the doorstep at CLIC House when we arrived. We thought we’d have to live in a hotel whilst treatment was going on, which would’ve been incredibly hard to all be in the same place with a new baby as well.
I couldn’t believe that this place existed for us to use. What was so wonderful about the Home from Home was the fact it was so normal. It had everything you could possibly need there. We spent three or four weeks at CLIC House and it was just a lifeline.
Janet was a goddess, off the charts amazing. We’re so lucky to have had her to provide practical and emotional support to us all.
Tim says that throughout Michael’s treatment he ended up in hospital over the Christmas period each time in one way or another.
He explains: “If Michael had an infection he’d have to stay in for 48 hours so we always had some form of stay over the Christmas period. We were never in on Christmas day or Boxing Day, usually we would have Michael home for those days. But then he’d be back in, maybe out to see a panto on New Year’s Eve if we were lucky. It was very hard, very sad, but we always thought it could’ve been worse.”
Tim now stars in CLIC Sargent’s short festive film alongside Ellie Mae, aged 10, from Horsham, West Sussex, whose family was also supported by CLIC Sargent when she was treated for cancer. The film sees Ellie Mae transform into ‘Kid Santa’, who brings magical surprises to children who want their parents to be able to forget about the costs of cancer. In the film, Tim’s son is played by an actor.
CLIC Sargent research found that when a child or young person is diagnosed with cancer, families’ costs go up by an average of £600 every month, and that 61% parents have accumulated some form of debt as a result of their child’s illness.
Tim said: “There are so many costs that quickly add up. We had regular trips to and from the hospital which meant we would be spending extra money on petrol, as well as cost of parking at hospital.
“It impacted us financially in other ways you wouldn’t necessarily expect as well, like our phone bills. You’d be constantly sending your family messages or making phone calls to let people know what was going on. And because the WiFi was terrible we’d spend a ridiculous amount on data roaming. My phone bill went up by £30 or £40 a month just for the internet usage.
“I then had to go part-time at work to be around for Michael. There isn’t really a way for both parents to carry on working full-time, so you end up losing half or a full salary. I went from working full-time and having a full salary to working two days a week and having barely enough to cover the bills.”
Rachel Kirby-Rider, Director of Income and Engagement at CLIC Sargent, said: “When your child has cancer, families’ worries don’t go away just because it’s the festive season. Children may not be able to spend Christmas in their own bed due to treatment, or parents might be worried about mounting debts. Our specialist care teams guide families when a child or young person is diagnosed with cancer, providing vital practical, emotional and financial support. CLIC Sargent helps the whole family to spend Christmas day together – we can give families a place to stay near the hospital at one of our Homes from Home, or nurses can provide treatments at home. Our Christmas appeal shows that supporters can help CLIC Sargent take away the cost of cancer, not just at Christmas but year-round, so we can be there for every child, young person and family that needs us.”
To donate, visit www.clicsargent.org.uk/kidsanta or text KIDSANTA to 70300 to donate £5.
Notes to editors
For more information please contact Rebecca Bourley on Rebecca.Bourley@clicsargent.org.uk or call 020 8752 2938
About cancer in children and young people
Today, 12 more children and young people in the UK will hear the devastating news that they have cancer. Treatment normally starts immediately, is often given many miles from home and can last for up to three years. Although survival rates are over 80%, cancer remains the single largest cause of death from disease in children and young people in the UK.
About CLIC Sargent
When cancer strikes young lives CLIC Sargent helps families limit the damage cancer causes beyond their health. CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading charity for young cancer patients and their families. We provide specialist support, to help and guide each young cancer patient and their family. We will fight tirelessly for them, individually, locally and nationally. For more information, visit www.clicsargent.org.uk
Note to sub editors
Please note that the name ‘CLIC Sargent’ should not be abbreviated to CLIC, and that the word ‘CLIC’ should always appear in capitals, as above.
Ellie Mae was diagnosed with cancer aged four, now she’s back to support CLIC Sargent’s Christmas campaign
Matilda was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in December 2016 when she was just three-years-old. CLIC Sargent provided a space in one of the charity’s Homes from Home when the journey became too difficult to manage.