Bradley Lowery Foundation launches new support helpline for families of children with cancer
The mum of inspirational youngster Bradley Lowery has spoke of the importance of having someone to talk to - as the foundation created in his name launched a new support helpline for the families of ill youngsters.
His mum Gemma Lowery set up the foundation back in August 2017 as a way of helping other poorly children and to keep her son's legacy alive.
Little Bradley, who captured the heart of the nation appearing as a mascot for Sunderland and England football teams, sadly died at the age of just six in July 2017.
Today the foundation has launched a support line which will give parents the opportunity to speak to trained counsellors while going through such a difficult time.
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Parents often face long waiting lists for much-needed support and find it difficult to have time to receive regular appointments with a trained counsellor.
Gemma, who lives in Blackhall Colliery, said: "When your child is diagnosed with cancer you put all your own needs aside to care for them. But, to be able to give your all, you need to look after yourself too.
"There's been some research done to say that emotional support is lacking. There is a lot of services that parents are offered from the RVI - and the services are fantastic.
"Ours is an add-on service to make sure that we're bridging that gap.
"What I found when I was in hospital with Bradley was that I didn't want to tell my mam and dad how I was really feeling.
"I didn't want to upset my friends and my family so to be able to have that external and emotional support without having to upset someone is extremely important.
"I went off my own experience because I've been through it.
"I always thought it would be handy to phone somebody and have a little cry without having to upset anybody who is also emotionally attached to Bradley.
"You can be the strongest woman or man in the world but things are going to get on top of you eventually.
"To be able to have that time that's yours that you can let your feelings go without worrying about anybody else's feelings is important.
"I think in regards to the support service just being able to access that is going to make a massive difference to our parents hopefully."
The support line is totally free for parents and guardians of children with cancer in the North East - or parents whose child is in remission from cancer.
The confidential service will be available to parents until 9pm at night and on weekends to ensure a time that is most convenient for them.
The free phone number, which ends in Bradley's date of birth May 17, is open from 8.30am to 4.30am where family members can arrange for a counsellor to call them at a suitable time.
The facility also offers face-to-face counselling for bereaved parents or for those needing further support.
It is also available to parents whose children are in remission.
Kirsty Pattison, of Kalma Places Counselling, said: "The parents of children who are affected by cancer need to have every support to get themselves and their children through grueling treatment.
"I am honoured to be working with the Bradley Lowery Foundation on the new support line project, which will help top get families through some of the most difficult times of their lives."
The support line is available on 0800 328 1705.