kids

'My 10yo daughter Poppy was diagnosed with cancer last year. These are the 12 things I've learnt.'

In May 2020, Australian journalist and author Dan Box's daughter, Poppy, was diagnosed with cancer.

The now-10-year-old was diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer called neuroblastoma; a tumour that grows in the cells of the body's nerves.

Since her diagnosis, Poppy has undergone rounds of chemotherapy, operations, hair loss and hair regrowth, all while living in lockdown in the UK during a global pandemic.

In September 2020, Box completed '100 for Poppy', "a zero-carbon, virtual challenge to represent the 100 children diagnosed with neuroblastoma in the UK every year".

Now, one year into Poppy's fight, Box has shared 12 things he's learnt over the past 12 months. Here's what he wrote.

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"One year on from my daughter’s #cancer diagnosis, this is what I wish someone had told me a year ago," he started the Twitter thread.

1. You’re stronger than you think. You have reserves of strength you have never imagined - because you have not had to draw from them before now.

2. Your daughter/son/wife/husband/parent is also much stronger than you realised. They, too, are stronger than you have ever imagined.

3. That said, it is still one day at a time. A day is manageable. Thinking and worrying about the future doesn’t help. Do what needs to be done today. Then do what needs to be done tomorrow.

4. You will spend a lot of time going to different shops, trying to find foods that your daughter/son/etc can eat while they are going through chemo. All of these will be refused as soon as you bring them back. Sometimes you will be sent to look for food that may not even exist.

5. Chemo isn’t as bad as you think it is. Until it is. By which I mean, a lot of it is manageable, and the hospital staff know exactly what to do to help you manage.

6. Nurses are fantastic.

7. Doctors are pretty great, too. To be honest, I’ve found doctors more complicated than nurses. Maybe it’s a reflection of their different roles but some doctors I’ve disagreed with whereas pretty much every nurse has nailed it from the beginning.

8. Hope. Some doctors will talk about survival rates. This is your child/partner/parent. They are unique. The survival statistics don’t mean anything will necessarily happen to them - and it is your job to always hope for the best. That way you can do everything to make it happen.

9. Don’t lose hope. It will happen sometimes. Pick yourself up and keep going. And do look after yourself - it’s not being selfish; you need to be able to function tomorrow, so make sure you look after yourself today.

10. None of this will make sense now. Don’t worry. You’ll start to understand it and, pretty soon, you’ll know far more about it than you ever thought was possible.

11. Going back to doctors - don’t be afraid to challenge them. As you learn more about what cancer is and how it’s treated, you will have questions. Ask them. Seek second opinions. You’re the only person whose sole job is to fight for your child/partner/parent. Fight hard.

12. Laugh. Smile. Ignore cancer sometimes, or find it funny. There are funny moments. I know you don’t believe it now, but it’s like point 1. - you will find the strength from somewhere.

"That’s it. 12 points for 12 months. Hope it helps somebody," he ended his Twitter thread. 

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Comments of support flooded in, including people sharing lessons of their own.

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As there's a chance Poppy will need to receive further treatment not currently available in the UK, her family and friends have started a fundraiser. You can donate here.

Feature image: Twitter/@DanBox10