September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and a time to highlight the impact cancer has on children, young people and their families.
Each year, Spread a Smile’s team of therapeutic entertainers support hundreds of children, young people and their families, battling all kinds of serious illnesses. Cancer is one of them.
Around 12 children and young people in the UK will find out the devastating news that they have cancer every day, which marks the beginning of a difficult path navigating hospital admissions, invasive treatments, pain and horrible side effects, and ongoing worry and uncertainty.
Spread a Smile’s mission is to be there for as many young people and their families as possible, bringing joy, fun, laughter, distraction, and friendship during some of the most difficult times. Young people like Hannah who in 2022 was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare type of soft tissue sarcoma (cancer).
Andrea, Hannah’s Mum said, “We discovered Spread a Smile whilst waiting for proton beam therapy in the hospital playroom. There was a notice on the wall saying that Spread a Smile would be visiting with a therapy dog, so we asked to change Hannah’s treatment time to coincide with their visit.
“We met Laura from the charity who explained what Spread a Smile does and how they could support Hannah. Laura was so kind, asking Hannah what she was interested in and listening to her and what she had to say. We realised that Hannah really enjoyed art and so she started weekly art classes in hospital with Abi, one of the Spread a Smile artists. Hannah also loved meeting the magicians and therapy dogs – Buddy, Harry, Thomas and Choco!
“It was such a good thing for both of us – throwing balls for the dogs, having cuddles, learning magic tricks and creating something in art. Hannah would become very poorly whilst on chemotherapy, so we weren’t allowed home at weekends and spent six weeks away from home and family in London. Meeting Spread a Smile would break up the week and give Hannah (and me) so many moments of laughter, happiness and enjoyment.
“Instead of just turning up at the exact time for our appointments, we would arrive at hospital first thing for when Spread a Smile arrived, so we could spend as much time as possible with them. Hannah didn’t want to miss a thing! It gave her a sense of purpose and meant a huge amount to both of us.
“Spread a Smile also invited us on an outing to afternoon tea at Mildreds restaurant in London – which was brilliant. It was a chance for us to have a day out together, in amongst all the treatment and hospital stuff. We were able to relax and breathe for a while.”
“Since coming home, we are so lucky that Hannah has been able to continue her art classes every other week over Zoom. The classes are a way of her being with other people – friends now – who don’t treat her differently because of her illness. She is Hannah the person, not the illness. She looks forward to the sessions as she is listened to and valued. She has choices and independence which is hugely important when your life feels like it’s controlled by something like cancer.
“Spread a Smile has made a huge difference to Hannah, making life just a bit more manageable.”
Thank you to everyone who makes the work we do spreading smiles to young people like Hannah possible. Click here to find out more about our work across the UK.