Imagine finding out your child won’t be able to make their own 1st birthday party because they have cancer, lymphoblastic leukaemia to be precise, blood cancer. They are a sick child.  

This is news no parent wants to hear. 

Your world is flipped upside down. Your priorities change. From this day forward all you want is for your child to get better again.  

The only thing you can do is comfort your loved one; be with them when they need you, listen and talk through their worries, stay with them overnight in hospital, tuck them into bed, cook their favourite meals and stupidly singing along to the radio. 

Being your child’s number one advocate is rewarding, but time-consuming and exhausting. Before you know it, you’re struggling to meet mortgage payments, paying off debt is not as easy and you may even be at risk of losing your home whilst trying to cope with relationships under this pressure. The last thing on your mind is work, bills and the routine of everyday life.  

       Maya's Story

In December 2012, this was the reality Maya Sehgal and her parents Aman and Nisha were facing. From December 2012 until 2015 when Maya received the all-clear, during her illness she underwent treatment at the Great North Children’s hospital at the RVI whilst her family also received assistance and advice from us at Citizens Advice Gateshead.

“Apart from the obvious physical and emotional trauma of cancer, we know many families face unexpected consequences from a cancer diagnosis such as problems at work arising from time off to attend hospital appointments, loss of income because of caring responsibilities, increased travel expenses from numerous hospital appointments, costs associated with aids and adaptations around the home to allow them to care for their child.

Our service can ease the burden of these worries and provide practical solutions giving the families the space they need to care for their sick child and their siblings.”

Alison Dunn CEO, Citizens Advice Gateshead

After hearing the news their child was facing a life-threatening illness, the Sehgal family began tirelessly fundraising in order to provide an emergency fund. One which would be available for future families and children with cancer to help guarantee help like ours would be available to assist with financial constraints. The support of their friends and family, created the ‘Inspired by Maya’ fund which amazingly managed to achieve £78,000 which helped fund a full-time post for three years here at Citizens Advice Gateshead. The Kay Kendal Leukaemia Service, administered by CLIC Sargent, has allowed us to provide advice and support to children and young adults diagnosed with cancer throughout the North East region from Teesside to the Scottish border and stretching as far West as Cumbria.

Maya’s father, Aman Sehgal, said:

“Having spent a lot of time at the Great North Children’s Hospital during Maya’s treatment, we wanted to give something back. We’ve been on a real rollercoaster over the past few years but Maya has always received the best possible care from the superb team on the children’s cancer ward and we are so very grateful to them. Nisha and I both recognise that we are extremely fortunate but, quite apart from the huge emotional and physical trauma you obviously go through as a parent when your child is diagnosed with cancer; we know that many families face unexpected financial consequences too.  For example, anything from experiencing loss of income due to caring responsibilities to having to take time off work to attend appointments, increased travel expenses, costs associated with having to adapt the home environment and so on.

Inspired by our experience with Maya, we just wanted to help other families who might be facing a similar situation.”

Going forward

Three years on from the Sehgal family's impressive efforts to support families in our region, we’ve decided it’s our time to DIG DEEP after being 'Inspired by Maya'. We have proven already hundreds of times over that the support we can offer to families facing life-changing challenges makes a real difference.

At Citizens Advice Gateshead we offer a range of support, alongside the Cancer Support Service including welfare benefits, debt advice, employment law and our Dementia Service to name a few. Whatever your problem or stressful your situation has become our advisers are ready to DIG DEEP on your behalf and help you move forward.

Are you ready to join us? Click here to find out how you can get involved in our DIG DEEP 2018 campaign to help us to raise the money we need to continue and provide direct access advice services to North East families!