Expanding Our Support for Children with Cancer

Amelie Hardiman was just 14 when diagnosed with stage three melanoma, an aggressive and rare form of skin cancer in children. Receiving treatment in Merseyside, away from her North Wales home, left her feeling isolated due to a lack of age-appropriate support.

Now 17, Amelie credits The Joshua Tree for providing crucial emotional support for her and her mother. "My friends didn't know how to handle what was going on in my life, but having that support person there was really important," she said.

Her support worker, Sara, visited weekly, offering activities and conversations that extended beyond her cancer diagnosis. This support was also vital for her mother, who found a network of other parents facing similar challenges.

Over the past five years, The Joshua Tree has supported around 200 families in North Wales and is now expanding its services with a new centre in Colwyn Bay. This centre will offer facilities for play, therapies, and counselling, bringing essential support closer to families who previously had to travel long distances to hospitals like Alder Hey in Liverpool.

Chief executive Richard Driffield emphasises the importance of having local support, away from hospital settings, "The support we offer is quite unique, it's away from the hospital setting and very much in the community and local area," he said.

"A lot of families travel more than 120 miles from north Wales to the principal treatment centre at Alder Hey [Hospital in Liverpool]… so having support on their doorstep is crucial and vital."   

Danielle Percival, head of family support, highlights the bespoke approach tailored to each family's needs, "For somebody with a [young] child, the safety of play is important," she said.

"For Amelie it was recognition of her still being a typical teenager and somebody to listen to the conversations about life and friendship groups and school, and all of those teenage hardships that happen within life and the cancer diagnosis comes in on top of normal life."

Amelie, now cancer-free and studying for her A-levels, continues to rely on The Joshua Tree's support. "I can call Sara and chat to her. She’s always there for me," she shared.

The charity’s expansion aims to reach more families, providing a supportive community that understands the complexities of life with childhood cancer.