Dear Charlotte, your association "Pro Mater Sano - for a healthy mother" supports mothers with cancer and their families. What does such support look like in concrete terms?
“According to the statutes of our association, physical and psychological support and rehabilitation measures are promoted for women with babies and small children who are suffering from cancer. We deliberately formulated this in very general terms. In concrete terms, our assistance is very individual in individual cases. Basically, we finance all the things that are not or only partially covered by the health insurance companies or other payers. This can be, for example, a household help or a babysitter, a measure from the field of complementary medicine, a therapeutic device, a wig or even a sports or yoga class.
We also support affected women with applications - for example when applying for domestic help. Depending on the region, we can also support you in finding domestic help or even fall back on our existing contacts in this area. Co-payments for therapy, which a mother can sometimes hardly or not afford at all, are taken over if necessary.”
How did it come about that you founded Pro Mater Sano eV?
“In June 2017 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was diagnosed when I was 10 weeks pregnant with my daughter. After I decided to have the child and at the same time to have the therapy, I had to undergo chemotherapy for almost the entire pregnancy. After my daughter was born in December 2017, the chemo continued, followed by radiation. This was a very challenging and exhausting time. I was still ill, but I also had a small child to take care of. Unfortunately, household help was only approved for me for a very limited period of time and the help was far from covering what I actually needed. Despite the fact that I had - for which I am very grateful - a lot of support from my family and friends, I always thought there had to be a different way... there needs to be better and more support for mothers with cancer! That’s how the idea for the club came about.”
How are you doing today?
"Good. I'm currently still taking medication, but you can basically live with the side effects. If I pay attention to sufficient exercise and diet and also listen to my body's signals, I hardly notice any limitations. However, I have to say that even after three and a half years I still feel extremely exhausted at times. Ultimately, I am happy and grateful that I have almost survived the cancer and can live my life freely again and – despite chemotherapy – have given birth to a healthy daughter.”
A diagnosis of cancer affects the whole family. What special challenges do mothers with small children in particular have to overcome in addition to their cancer?
“In short, everyday life. In many cases it is the case that childcare or even the entire household is largely taken care of by the mothers. However, during cancer, there is often a lack of strength to be able to cope with all these things, which at first glance seem simple. As already mentioned, I unfortunately only had domestic help for a limited period of time, ie a few hours a week and only for a total of three weeks. The help that was granted was far from what I actually needed. This is where the work of our association starts; if necessary, we will assume the additional costs of domestic help for an individually agreed period of time.
But we also often notice in our club that it sometimes helps if there is someone who can cook something for the children or go out with them. That's why we also cover the costs for a babysitter, for example. For some mothers, on the other hand, it is good to have a "time out from family life" or they would like to take a rehabilitation or yoga course. Other moms, on the other hand, need something completely different to recharge their batteries. We are therefore open to all inquiries and, if there is a specific need, we look at how we can help the affected mother and her family in a targeted manner.
And from your experience, how do the children deal with their mother's illness?
“The children are often incredibly strong because of course they realize that something is different with their mum. Even with my daughter, I often noticed at the time that she wanted to protect me - even though she was still a baby. That is also very clear. Children love their parents and want them to be happy. Depending on the age and degree of maturity of the children, the illness can also be discussed with the children - of course in a child-friendly way - and explained what is happening with mum. In my opinion, this is particularly important in order to take away some of the fears of the little ones. Because one thing is clear, the disease is an enormous psychological and physical burden for the entire family.
What advice would you give to moms who have just been diagnosed with cancer?
"Clearly: You are not alone! I often just missed someone going through something similar. I often thought I was all alone with this. But through our work, I'm noticing more and more that many – too many – young women are getting cancer. At the time I would have been very happy about exchange opportunities such as on Instagram or about a contact point where you can just ask a few questions. Our doors are also open for this: if you just don't know what to do, the mothers can contact us at any time. The women can come to us with their very individual wishes – be it via Instagram, email or telephone – and we will try to find a solution as quickly, appropriately and unbureaucratically as possible.”
We thank Charlotte for this interview and the great work she does with her team!
You can find more information on the home page of Pro Mater Sano eV: http://www.pro-mater-sano.de