Support for young cancer patients and their families in Austria

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At the «Sonneninsel» (sun island) young patients and their relatives are supported to better cope with their experiences and changed circumstances

Roche Austria has been supporting the “Sonneninsel” project since it was launched by the Austrian Childhood Cancer Organisation. The goal of this unique project is to give the affected young people and their relatives new strength and hope after their treatment.

For many patients, a cancer diagnosis triggers an emotional crisis and a great deal of stress for family and relatives. The situation is particularly difficult when children or teenagers and their families are involved.

Thanks to medical advances in children’s oncology, the chance of a cure and survival for these young patients stands at around 80 percent. For those affected, however, psycho-social aftercare remains essential. A cancer diagnosis in children and teenagers brings about lasting changes for the patients themselves and also for their siblings and parents. For the last 20 years, the Austrian Childhood Cancer Organisation has been running camps throughout Austria that help children and teenagers to overcome their fears, boost their self-esteem and take a positive attitude to life again. This aftercare program has been continuously expanded and over time it became necessary to begin offering the services from a fixed location. Construction began on the “Sonneninsel” center in 2010, and it was opened in September 2013. The camps will be held at the “Sonneninsel” center from mid-2014.

Differing requirements

“Sonneninsel” is the first aftercare center in Austria and the neighboring regions for children and teenagers suffering from cancer and for their relatives. It offers various services, including the Austrian Childhood Cancer Organisation’s psycho-social aftercare camps, which are precisely adapted to the needs of such children and teenagers. At present, there are five different camps. The “Onki (oncology)” camps are aimed at children and teenagers who have recently undergone intensive treatment, offering them their first opportunity to convalesce and enjoy themselves outside a hospital environment without parental accompaniment. The “Friendship” and “Winter” camps are intended for young people whose treatment took place at least two years ago.

The aftercare camps clearly show that people affected need ourservices and Roche’s generous support has been essential.
Anita Kienesberger

A broad range of sporting and creative activities helps them to regain their strength and restore their confidence in their bodies. The “Sibling” camps are all about caring for the siblings of cancer sufferers. Due to the considerable amount of care and attention required by childhood cancer sufferers, siblings often feel neglected and helpless—unable to do anything about the situation that is impacting both them and their parents. These camps give the young people an opportunity to voice their concerns, fears and problems in supervised groups. Specially trained teachers and psychotherapists look after the participants and respond to their individual needs.

A family environment

The “Sonneninsel” center at the Wallersee, a lake close to the city of Salzburg, is designed to serve as a place of relaxation and safety for the affected families and to make it easier for them to cope with their experiences and changed circumstances. For Anita Kienesberger, Head of the Austri-an Childhood Cancer Organisation, “The after­­care camps clearly show that people affected really need our services, and Roche’s long-standing and generous support in helping us provide them has been essential.”

Roche Austria has been supporting the Austrian Childhood Cancer Organisation and the aftercare camps since 2008. In addition, for the last three years a portion of the annual Children’s Walk donations has gone to the “Sonneninsel” project. At one company event, Roche employees were even able to “win” funds for the project. The aim of the game was to win coins, which were then used to buy construction materials. These materials were symbolic of the construction of the “Sonneninsel”, and all proceeds were donated to the “Sonneninsel” project.

Fact and Figures

Childhood cancer in Austria

“Sonneninsel”

“Onki” (oncology) camps

  • Approx. 250 new cases of childhood cancer each year in Austria
  • Rapid medical advances in children’s oncology have led to 80% chance of cure and survival
  • First aftercare center in a fixed location for childhood and teenage cancer sufferers and their relatives
  • Offers a range of services, including aftercare camps, family recovery programs and bereavement seminars
  • 5 different camps for various target groups
  • Camps providing psychosocial aftercare for children, teenagers and their families
  • Can provide care for some 150 affected children and their siblings each year

Tags: Sustainability, Awareness, Patients, Society