Advocacy program ensures WA cancer kids don’t get left behind

Children living with cancer already have the biggest battle of their life to overcome; just ask Perth mum Tegan Connolly. Her son Logan was diagnosed with B cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia when he was two and a half years old and spent years enduring intense regimes of daily chemotherapy and daily steroid to help his tiny body fight the cancer. 

“I still see the effects of missed experiences from Logan’s early formative years. Whether it was staying home, isolation, lost friendships, and loneliness; his health came first and everything else followed”, says Tegan.

Now, a new WA based advocacy program is set to promote continuity of education and empower students to chase their dreams. A first of its kind in WA, the Back on Track initiative is set to ensure children who go through cancer treatment do not fall through the cracks with their education due to the enormous strain treatment can have. 

The Child Cancer Research Foundation has been delivering support to the childhood cancer community in WA for 42 years, with CCRF General Manager Kylie Dalton dedicating the past two years researching with families, children who have gone through treatment, adults who’ve had cancer as a child and support organisations. 

“Working with child cancer families has taught me that while improvements have been made with treatments there are many gaps that the kids face. One of them is support with education that fits their needs.”

The Back on Track WA program will ensure children have the chance to get back to their education post treatment; an opportunity every child deserves. 

“School represents normal life to most students”, says Kylie.

“Going to school is more than just education – it establishes a routine and provides an opportunity to socialise. A diagnosis of cancer is a major disruption for the student and leads to frequent absences from school, loss of friendships and isolation.”

The Back on Track WA program will ensure children have the chance to get back to their education post treatment; an opportunity every child deserves. The initiative will see two specialist educators funded for the program, with one assigned to a child cancer patient following diagnosis, who will remain with the child for their entire treatment journey, tutoring, advocating at hospital level and with the school. The educator will support the child, parents, classmates, and the teacher throughout the entire journey, offering guidance upon the often-daunting return to the classroom. 

For Tegan, having educational support from the Back on Track program will help support Logan’s education and emotional well-being long throughout his schooling years and will play an integral role in treating the long-term effects cancer is having on him.  

“It’s been a vision years in the making and with the support of Cancer Australia’s seed funding, envisioning every WA child with cancer reach their full educational potential is becoming even more of a reality” Kylie explains.

“Especially seeing how so many want to become doctors and nurses themselves, inspired by those who cared for them during their cancer journey.”

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Cassie Silver
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