Inspired by Maya 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 want to hear. Your world is flipped upside down. Your priorities change. From this day forward, your lives are turned upside down and your only priority is getting your child 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 in to bed, and cook their favourite meals or stupidly singing along to the radio. Being your child’s number 1 advocate, is rewarding but time consuming and exhausting you will probably have to leave or take time off from work. 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 your relationships under pressure. The last thing on your mind is work, bills and the routine of everyday life. In December 2012, this was the reality Maya Sehgal and her parents Aman and Nisha’s were facing. Maya’s Story From December 2012 until 2015 when Maya got the all-clear, she received treatment from the Great North Children’s hospital at the RVI and much-needed assistance offered 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.” Allison Dun CEO, Citizens Advice Gateshead After hearing the news their child was facing a life-threatening illness, they dug deep and tirelessly fundraised in order to provide an emergency fund available for future families and children with cancer to help with financial constraints. The support of their friends and family, created the ‘Inspired by Maya’ fund which was administered by CLIC Sargent and enabled the Sehgal family to provide us here Citizens Advice Gateshead with full-time post for three years under the Kay Kendal Leukaemia Service. This service 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.” Conclusion Three years on from the Sehgal families impressive efforts to support those who need it the most in our region, we’ve decided it’s our time to Dig Deep after being ‘Inspired by Maya’! Over the course of the next year we will be taking part in challenges and events in order to grow our support network and achieve bigger goals! Are you ready to join us? Click here to find out how you can get involved.