Last year, Rockinghorse appointed a paediatric clinical psychologist for the Oncology service at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital (the Alex) in Brighton.
Dr Alice Emond joined the team in July 2018 as the Rockinghorse Clinical Psychologist. In her first year, she has provided a vital specialist psychological support service for children and young people during, and after their treatment for cancer.
Referrals to the Rockinghorse Psychology Service are continuing to increase, highlighting the need for its vital support. By integrating clinical psychologists into paediatric care, the charity can ensure that the emotional wellbeing of children and families are both assessed and addressed.
Rockinghorse is appealing for donations to help continue providing vital psychological support for children and young people during their treatment for cancer.
Alice is specially trained to support children of all ages with a cancer diagnosis, supporting their mental health and wellbeing. Alice supports children and their family members to cope with the diagnosis, intensive treatment procedures, emotional and behavioural challenges, and works with families and the medical team to promote resilience and adjustment.
She explains why the service is so important, “As the Rockinghorse Clinical Psychologist in the paediatric oncology team, I carry out psychological assessment and provide targeted therapeutic support for patients and their families.
“This support is offered from diagnosis and throughout their treatment and post-treatment, helping children and their families readjust and reintegrate back into their lives outside of hospital. I work closely with colleagues from the play specialist and education teams, social workers and other charities to support families’ holistic needs.
“It is well recognised that physical health difficulties can cause considerable impact on psychological wellbeing. A diagnosis of cancer can have a significant impact on the whole family. Helping them to understand and work through the challenges together, is so important in promoting resilience during their journey.”
The Rockinghorse Psychology service is proving to be of great benefit to young patients undergoing treatment for cancer, and their families.
Kerry Leppard from Haywards Heath is one such parent who is receiving support from Dr Alice Emond. Her daughter Florence was diagnosed with a liver tumour aged just two-years-old. Her diagnosis was confirmed as Hepatocellular Carcinoma – a rare cancer in children with a poor prognosis.
Florence also had secondary disease in both her lungs and underwent seven cycles of chemotherapy. This was followed by vital surgery to remove the tumour along with two thirds of her liver. In the aftermath, the family struggled to find help supporting Florence with her uncharacteristic behaviour.
They were delighted to hear that Rockinghorse were behind a pioneering project to fully fund a children’s psychologist within the Oncology service at the Alex. Kerry explains more:
“In the aftermath of Florence’s cancer, my husband John and I were struggling to support her. Florence’s situation is like her cancer – rare. Florence is nearly eight years old and in Year Three at school. The Rockinghorse Clinical Psychologist, Dr Alice Emond, has been supporting Florence for six months now.
“Alice provides a safe place for Florence to be heard and understood. She understands the emotional impact of her illness and it is recognised and treated accordingly. Whilst putting her at the centre of the treatment, the sessions are also equipping us all with the tools to respond to challenges in a supportive way. The impact has been quite amazing, and we are very grateful.
“This simply wouldn’t be able to happen without Rockinghorse. Thanks to their support, many more children and their families will be able to cope with the numerous pressures and strains that constantly surround such a painful diagnosis.”
Rockinghorse is funding Alice’s post in response to needs identified by the medical teams at the Alex who are working directly with sick children.
Earlier this year, the charity increased provision of the Rockinghorse Clinical Psychologist by an extra day. This means that Dr Alice Emond is able to reach even more children and their families; preparing them for extensive treatment plans for cancer, including surgeries.”
Rockinghorse is encouraging supporters to get involved in a fundraising event this Christmas to help raise funds for the appeal. To find out more or to donate online, visit www.rockinghorse.org.uk.