Learning to Let Go
Since the commencement of the Hong Kong Children’s Hospital (HKCH), patients and their families have been gradually adapting to the new environment. HKCH has a team of medical social workers (MSW) to look after the needs of the in-patients. With our seamless collaboration with HKCH, we now focus on the needs of patients after treatment. A series of programme have been developed and launched to fill the service gaps in providing more comprehensive support to ease them back into the community and have a smoother transition back to school.
Most families are unfamiliar with cancer and find it intimidating; the long process of recovery is also filled with uncertainties. Despite the medical advancement, survivors are deeply traumatised with the long-term problems such as mental health issues, the threat of recurrence, and the stress that cancer places on their family.
Ling as an example, she is a well-behaved and studious 16-year-old girl. Six years ago, she was diagnosed with acute leukemia and underwent a series of cancer treatments and a hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. When she woke up from her coma a week after the operation, Ling’s memory and speech were noticeably impaired. Nevertheless, Ling recovered and returned to school, but her learning disabilities and her lack of self-confidence made it frustratingly for her to meet friends. Her parents were so worried that the mother even volunteered to work at her school just to keep an eye on her. She even arranged a series of tutorial classes to boost her learning. The more she pushed, the more rebellious Ling became, resulting in a tensed relationship. Gradually, Ling hated school and skipped classes regularly.
Looking at Ling’s family, you can tell the late effects of cancer not only affect the patient, but the whole family. To help the young patients in their journey of recovery, our family counsellors need to work with all three parties - the patient, the family, and the school. For the patients being traumatised by the treatment, gentle guidance is required to ease them back into the community. In our Community Service Centre (CSC), we provide transitional pre-school programme, using classroom simulations to help them familiarise and adapt to the new school environment. This includes skill enhancement training that focuses on better concentration and social interactions. We also provide special tutorial for those with special education needs. Furthermore, diagnosed support groups are organised for parents to promote solidarity through their shared experiences and help them relieve stress brought about by the long-term care of children. The schools also need to properly understand the special needs of these children. When the children are well prepared for school, our team will work closely with their parents and liaise with the schools to ensure a safe and loving environment.
Family Counselling Service has an indiscernible yet very important mission: To release families from their entangled relationship. The moral of the story in Ling’s case is 'haste makes waste'. Through our counselling service, we offer a safe platform for Ling and her mother to communicate with one another. By expressing her fear of losing her daughter, Ling’s mother likewise acknowledged that her daily presence at the school only added pressure to the already difficult time that Ling was experiencing. Ling’s relationship with her mother has drastically improved through their honest and open dialogue. And they no longer feel helpless and lost in their cancer journey.
Even the road to recovery is long and arduous, we are here to walk with every family to explore the infinite possibilities!
CCF Newsletter Vol.57 (Jan 2020)