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Saskia’s Story: Recovering with Active Hospitals

Saskia rings bell
10 December 2021

Meet Saskia!

At 16 years old, she was diagnosed with a Medulloblastoma, which is a brain tumour in the primary central nervous system (CNS). She was offered the opportunity to be transferred to Sheffield Children’s to allow her to take part in an international trial – known as PNET 5 – which was not available at the local adult trust.

Saskia chose to take part in the trial and was also treated with Proton Therapy as part of her treatment on the trial.

The chemotherapy for this type of tumour is particularly difficult for teenagers due to the side effects which can occur throughout the treatment. Saskia worked with physiotherapists closely during her treatment but felt she needed continued rehabilitation at the end of her years treatment because her muscles lost strength and tone. This is common following cancer treatment because it targets the whole body, and unfortunately doesn’t focus on specific cancer cells.

Saskia explains: “At some points I was in clinic every day at Sheffield Children’s having treatment, including blood and platelet transfusions. As a result of the treatment, I lost two stone in weight.”

Despite specific rehabilitation from the Physio and Occupational Therapy team after her chemotherapy it was felt that active sessions would enable Saskia to reach some of her personal everyday goals.

It is really important for patients like Saskia to be given the opportunity to become physically active. This is because during treatment, they generally have lower physical activity levels than their peers and being physically active in the long term may help to counterbalance some of the effects of their cancer and treatment.

This meant that as part of her recovery at Sheffield Children’s, Saskia – now 18 – took part in the new Active Hospitals project, which is funded by Public Health England and Sport England. Through Active Hospitals, Sheffield Children’s is making physical activity a key part of recovery plans for children and young people, whilst also offering more resources to support staff, patients and their families.

Following the end of her treatment, Saskia was in a wheelchair and struggling to do day to day tasks. Thanks to her hard work – and guidance from Tom, Physical Activity Therapist – Saskia is now doing brilliantly and has even advanced to taking part in workouts with weights.

Saskia said: “I think it definitely exceeded my expectations, both for myself and for what I thought the programme was going to be. I didn’t think I would get to this good a point. I’ve got so much more independence back now, from being in a wheelchair to now is such a massive difference.

“The care at Sheffield Children’s is amazing. They treated me like an adult when looking after me and I really appreciated that. They work so hard but still put on a smile for you and make every effort to make you feel better.

“On my first day, one of the nurses, Rosie, sat with me for an hour or more while my mum was away, making sure I was settling in. She was someone I could just have a chat with and like many of the nurses, became more of a friend by the time my treatment finished. My physios Roni, Debbi and Tom were all incredible, helping me so much with my mobility and getting me to where I am today.

“The clinic team were amazing too, they always had a smile on their face and were so professional while being genuinely friendly, funny and caring. They made a bad situation that little bit nicer for everyone and we became a family- an unconventional one, but a family all the same.

“I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone involved, I know I wouldn’t be here without you.”

Hear more about what Saskia thought of the programme and perhaps try out a few of the exercises for yourself, by watching the video filmed at one of our clinics at Sheffield Hallam University below.

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