Monday 10th September 2012
Heather McMillan, Macmillan Cancer Information Support Worker, reinvents classic fairy tales to help children understand cancer.
I offer educational sessions to schools in Bassetlaw as a fun and interactive way for children to learn more about cancer risk and how to live a healthy lifestyle.
I feel it’s never too early to reinforce relevant health advice. When I developed the sessions, I knew they had to be fun and not frightening. So with this in mind, I re-wrote stories that the children would be familiar with.
In one tale, the big bad wolf becomes a smoker who can’t blow the pigs’ house down because he has a chronic shortage of breath. And the three little pigs are all unfit with various lifestyle-related problems.
On reviewing my service’s offerings, I felt I needed to extend the message to give the children some understanding of cancer itself. I wrote my own story about Katie, a little girl whose daddy has cancer.
It follows Katie from the day her mummy and daddy try her daddy getting better. The story focuses on some of the questions I get asked by young children, such as:
- Is cancer contagious?
- What is a tumour?
- Will you die from it?
By using these stories I’ve been able to mix relevant health information with positive lifestyle messages, and hopefully answer some of the questions troubling younger people.
So far the feedback has been very encouraging.
‘It was fun. I’m going to ask my daddy not to smoke anymore.’ Billy Cooper, five.
I’ve also been promoting the importance of breast and testicular self-examination to school and college students. I use prosthetics to explain self-examination techniques along with interactive quizzes and discussion to reinforce the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
Information for adults
Delivering the sessions in schools gave me an insight into the positive impact these lessons could have in the workplace. I wrote to every workplace in Bassetlaw and found there was a lot of interest.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm and cooperation shown by employers, ranging from Bassetlaw power station, which has nearly 1,000 employees (mostly male), to smaller business with a mixed staff of seven.
Helen Kay from Cook & Mason insurance brokers said, ‘The session was excellent, set at the right level, and I’ve received very positive feedback.’
Since delivering these sessions, over 2,000 people have been taught to carry out self-examination to check for abnormalities.