Little Stars burn Bright at World Cancer Congress

Article by Rob Gill for eHospice

The World Cancer Congress in Melbourne last night (Friday 5 December) celebrated the official Australian launch of Little Stars, the locally-produced series of films at the heart of a global advocacy project highlighting the need for greater access for children to palliative care.

Film makers Mike Hill and Sue Collins have produced uplifting but still heart rending stories about children, young people and their families accomplishing the extraordinary in the face of serious illness. Stories have been captured in nine countries – the USA, South Africa, India, Australia, Malaysia, Italy, Jordan, the UK and Russia.The screening was an opportunity for world cancer leaders to champion the cause of an estimated 20 million children and families around world denied access to essential palliative care services.International speakers in town for the congress included Professor Julia Downing from South Africa, Associate Professor Jim Cleary, Australian-born but a long term resident of the US, Dr Ednin Hamzah from Malaysia and Professor MR Rajagopal from India. Each spoke eloquently of their experiences around the world of the tribulations people faced in getting access to medicines for the relief of pain inherent in often terminal illness.Professor David Hill, Past President of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and former Director of the Cancer Council of Victoria was MC for the evening.Also attending was Simon Waring from Melbourne whose son Marmaduke featured in one of the films. Simon and his pregnant wife Millsom entered the ‘twilight zone’ familiar to oncology parents when Marmaduke was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Overnight Simon became the full-time carer for Marmaduke while both parents juggled the daily needs of four children, absorbing the emotional and logistical demands of long-term treatment. Simon believes paediatric palliative care became critical not just to the ongoing comfort of Marmaduke, but also to the holistic welfare of their whole family, which suffered the dual loss of Millsom – also from cancer.Mike Hill told the audience of his wish for the films to be viewed around the world so that people could pick up on the suffering of an estimated 20 million children who would benefit from access to palliative care.Children are particularly at risk of inadequate pain management due to age related factors, limited access to essential medicines and misconceptions about how to effectively treat their pain.  These vulnerable children and families are suffering. They are largely invisible. But for those receiving care, the results are extraordinary.

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