Speaking up for those who can’t

Published: 14 December 2016 Ezine

Author: Charlotte Beardmore, director of professional policy

A heartbroken father publicly shared a photograph of his four-year-old daughter visibly suffering the pain of her final days with stage four neuroblastoma.

Professional photographer Andy Whelan took the image of Jessica when he and his wife could offer their daughter no further comfort.

It was a heartrending, brave and, for a few, controversial thing to do. For Jessica’s parents it was a way to share the ‘true face’ of childhood cancer and raise awareness of it.

Since its publication, the photo has moved thousands of people around the world to send the family messages of support.

It has prompted people to volunteer, give blood and make donations. Such is the power of social media.

Alongside this, a petition which calls on the government to increase its funding for childhood cancer research, testing and care has now gathered many more signatures. (It was debated in Parliament on 27 November.)

Conversations taking place on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter back the notion that the government is not investing enough in childhood cancer research and care.

Online discussions also show that there is a long way to go when it comes to raising the profile of those who care for, and advocate on behalf of, children with cancer.

Just days after Jessica’s photo was released, radiographers celebrated World Radiography Day by setting up stalls in their place of work, organising events and fundraising for charity.

This was our opportunity to shine a light on our work, on our profession, and engage with those who have little or no understanding of what we do.

But can we do more?

The message that we as healthcare professionals need to send, not just in November but all year round, is that we are on our patients’ side.

We are here not only to care for them through diagnosis and treatment, but to speak up on their behalf, at all levels, to demand that their care is the very best it can be.

This is a role we take very seriously at the SCoR.

We will not falter in our mission to push for more and better research.

We will not stay quiet when the levels of investment in healthcare and education fall short.

We will continue to play a significant role in building a strong evidence-base, sharing and promoting best practice, and setting and raising standards.

All of the SCoR’s work, all the meetings we attend, and all the projects we pursue, have you, your patients and their families at the core.

I’m deeply proud of our profession and the work we do.

And, like you, I will continue to do all I can for those who stare the devastating realities of injury, illness and disease in the face.

Jessica Whelan passed away on 20 November.

Her father wrote: “She passed peacefully and calmly with not even a murmur. Thank you to everyone of you who has shared and has been a part of our journey. I ask now for privacy for us and our family as we mourn the loss of our beautiful princess.”