A young cancer patient is campaigning to be able to bring another person along to her hospital appointments and treatments for support.
Paige Garratt, 24, from Connah’s Quay in North Wales was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in June after being given the all clear in February this year.
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Since her relapse, she has only been permitted to have her mother with her at “a handful of appointments” because of restrictions on visitors due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Charity CLIC Sargent said she is one of thousands of young people with cancer who has experienced stress and anxiety because of the pandemic restrictions.
Going into hospital alone
Ms Garratt attends three-to-five hospital appointments a week to treat the cancer which has developed in her lymphatic system. So far, she has undergone chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant alone, leaving her in one instance without any company for three weeks.
“My girlfriend or my parents will drive me to the hospital, but they can’t go in.
“When I went in for stem cell treatment for the first time, it was quite intimidating,” Ms Garratt told i. “I was projected to stay for six weeks, but no one was able to help me take my bags to my room, or help me set it up to make it comfortable or homely.”
Ms Garett wants to bring a family member to the appointments so that they can support her wellbeing. She said she relies on her mother to take in information about her treatment options which she may be “too overwhelmed” to register.
“After chemotherapy, you feel so heavy, like you have the flu, and because you’ve had so many steroids you can’t sleep, even though you feel tired. When I experience that, it means for four days I can’t even have a TV on or read and concentrate, and I just want company. Video calls are just not the same.
“During one of my four-day rounds of chemotherapy, I called my parents saying how lonely and scared I was, alone in hospital. My mum had to stop my dad from driving off to try and take me out of the hospital.”
Ms Garratt prefers to place her mother on the speakerphone when she visits her consultant to talk through treatment options, but she said this isn’t always possible.
“The first time I had cancer, the consultant would go on to talk about the treatment but I didn’t hear it. I just heard that I’d have to undergo 12 rounds of chemo, and I just stopped taking on any information,” she said.
Inconsistencies in care
CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading charity for young cancer patients, is supporting young people aged16 and over who have had a similar experience to Paige. Together with Teenage Cancer Trust, they have found inconsistencies across the UK when it comes to attending appointments. Some appointments can be attended virtually with family members present, while other young people have to go into hospital alone.
“The coronavirus pandemic has been tough for everyone but especially young cancer patients, which is why CLIC Sargent and Teenage Cancer Trust will look to work with the NHS in the New Year on this issue,” a spokesperson from the charity said.
“The charities will be working in partnership to make sure hospital trusts prioritise allowing young cancer patients to have a companion where appropriate, to help reduce the risk of confusion, fear and isolation.
“We would like to encourage any young people aged 13-25, who have had a similar experience to Paige, to be sure to speak to their clinical care or social care team for support and advice. If they would like to hear more about the work CLIC Sargent and Teenage Cancer Trust are doing on this issue, they can visit our website here.“
Paige believes that irrespective of age, people should be allowed to have someone from their household join them when they need it.
“Once you’re told the news you have cancer, all responsibility goes out of the window and you don’t feel like an adult at all, even at the age of 24. No matter how old you are, life’s difficulties are a lot easier when you have some support,” she added.