• Germany's news in English
 
'Young cancer sufferers have specific problems'
Photo: Friederike Kaup

'Young cancer sufferers have specific problems'

Published: 27 May 2013 07:22 GMT+02:00

Twenty six-year-old Kaup was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in 2010. Unable to continue living a shared flat, known as a Wohngemeinschaft or WG in German, with other students, she had to leave university and move in with her parents.

“There comes a point when people can do no more to help,” said Kaup. This is especially hard for a parent living with an ill, grown-up child.

“Mine aged a lot that year from stress,” she told The Local, explaining that it was this time at home that gave her the idea for a “Chemo WG” - a shared flat in which young cancer sufferers can group together somewhere nicer than a hospital.

Living in a flat where professionals come in and clean, and food can be delivered could be, Kaub thinks, the solution for many who accept that they need help but want to maintain independence. “Everyone needs to shut the door and not come out for a day, but at home with your family that often isn't possible – at least it wasn't for me.”

After surgery to replace bone in her right thigh with titanium and months of chemotherapy, Kaub is officially tumour free, and has thrown herself into drumming up enough support – and money – to make the Chemo WG a reality.

Too old to be back at home?

Ideally the flat would be on the ground floor – Kaub learnt the hard way that climbing the stairs to a flat on the fourth floor is near-impossible after a round of chemo – and be for just three to four people aged between 20 and 35. More than that would be too stressful, and end up too much like a hospital.

There would be a spare bedroom for when a housemate needs a little support, and two bathrooms. “Everything takes longer when you're ill,” she admitted. Having the space to settle in and have your own room is, Kaub thinks, important in reducing stress during treatment.

“Younger cancer sufferers also have very age-specific problems,” she said, adding that almost all the young people she met during her time in hospital had had to move home. “Many said they had no idea where they fit in, they weren't in strong enough relationships to stay with a partner but felt too old to be back at home.”

Kaub asked 25 young patients during her time in and out of hospital, two weeks of every month were spent there for a year, about whether they would be interested in living somewhere like a Chemo WG. “More than half said they would, and almost all said they had had to move back in with their parents after falling ill.”

“Obviously for some people, being at home is the better option though,” said Kaub, a sociology student at university in Darmstadt south of Frankfurt.

But assisted living, no matter how basic, is not cheap, and Kaub has been trying since February to set up a foundation that would collect funding for the flat. So far, getting enough people to make up a directory board was, she said, proving tough.

Privacy and space for independence

“A lot of people think it's a really good idea but when push comes to shove they just don't have time to commit,” Kaub admitted, adding that raising awareness was key in finding people willing to give time to setting up the WG. Rent would be paid for by those living there, and the foundation would figure out how to pay for services like cleaning, food delivery and cooking.

She said she would be approaching the state government to tell them her plan and ask for funding. Although she is “not looking forward to getting tied up in Germany's complicated bureaucratic system.” A good sign was, Kaub added, that the head doctor the Koblenz hospital where she received treatment is very enthusiastic about the idea.

The Chemo WG foundation's job would be to find the flat, fit it out appropriately. “I was thinking about asking Ikea to donate furniture,” said Kaub, and sort out the day-to-day services the housemates might need. “The main advantage would be, unlike a hospital, there would be privacy and space for independence on better days,” she added.

Until things get underway, Kaub will be cycling from one end of Germany to the other – both as a victory gesture about beating a vicious type of cancer, and to raise awareness about the Chemo WG. She will be getting into her three wheeled recliner bike on July 1st in at Lake Constance in the south and cycling 2,000 miles to the Germany's Baltic coast.

“I was in a wheelchair for a long time, and at one point it looked like I would lose my leg,” said Kaub, explaining that the trip would be her reward after a year of pain. Along the way, she will be stopping off at alternative housing associations to get inspiration for her own unique accommodation proposal.

Jessica Ware

jessica.ware@thelocal.com

twitter.com/jesscware

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Xenophobia thrives in shadow of Berlin towers
A demo in Marzahn-Hellersdorf. File photo: DPA

Xenophobia thrives in shadow of Berlin towers

There's little to break the monotony of communist-era apartment blocks stretching across Marzahn-Hellersdorf, an east Berlin satellite district that has gained national notoriety for a spate of anti-foreigner protests. READ  

Ecuador returns German money in oil valley spat
Photo: DPA

Ecuador returns German money in oil valley spat

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa said Saturday that Quito would be giving back about $8.5 million donated by Germany last year, in an environmental row. READ  

German bank sues Ecclestone for €345mn
Photo: DPA

German bank sues Ecclestone for €345mn

German bank BayernLB is seeking €345 million ($423 million) in a lawsuit against Formula One magnate Bernie Ecclestone over the 2006 sale of the sport's rights, according to a report. READ  

Löw aims for Euro 2016 with new-look Germany
Joachim Löw holding the World Cup trophy. File photo: DPA

Löw aims for Euro 2016 with new-look Germany

World Cup winners Germany have suffered something of a hangover since their triumph in Brazil, but coach Joachim Löw is hoping a new-look side can go on to claim more glory at Euro 2016. READ  

T-Mobile to pay $90 mn over US fraud charges
Photo: DPA

T-Mobile to pay $90 mn over US fraud charges

German mobile phone company T-Mobile has agreed to pay at least $90 million to settle US government claims that it bilked customers with bogus charges, US regulators said Friday. READ  

Ethics Council rejects assisted suicide law
Photo: DPA

Ethics Council rejects assisted suicide law

The German Ethics Council said the law should not be changed to permit assisted suicide in a paper published on Friday. READ  

Abandoned themepark needs 14m says Berlin
Swan Lake. An abandoned ride in the Spreewald pleasure park. Photo: DPA

Abandoned themepark needs 14m says Berlin

The iconic ruined themepark in the centre of Berlin - a long-time favourite of hipster adventurers - needs a clean-up costing at least 14 million euros, the Berlin government has revealed. READ  

Police nab Nuremberg station bomb hoaxer
File photo of Nuremberg main station: Shutterstock

Police nab Nuremberg station bomb hoaxer

Officers in Nuremberg arrested a man on Thursday evening after he called in a false bomb threat against the main train station READ  

Opinion
Angela, David...and Nigel
So near...and yet so far Photo: DPA

Angela, David...and Nigel

The rise of UKIP broke up what had been a good 2014 for Cameron and Merkel. READ  

'Dr Death' corpse museum gets go-ahead
Dr Gunther von Hagens. Photo: DPA

'Dr Death' corpse museum gets go-ahead

A Berlin court has said that infamous human taxidermist Gunther von Hagens can open a museum in the capital - over objections from local officials. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Willy Brandt at his inauguration in 1972. Photo: DPA
National
Willy Brandt: the man, the chancellor... the airport?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Sponsored Article
Why are these International Baccalaureate students cheering?
Germany's national football team lifts the World Cup trophy
Gallery
Germany's most-Googled words of 2014
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Stuff your face with these festive German cookies
Photo: DPA
Culture
What do beer, breakfast cereal and dildos have in common?
Culture
The Local's guide to German Christmas markets
Sponsored Article
Top five quirky Christmas jumpers
Photo: DPA
Culture
Get ready for Christmas like a German. We tell you how.
Photo: DPA
Munich
She did what with her dead mother?
Photo: DPA
National
Germany still paying for crisis fall out
Photo: DPA
Culture
Saxon wurst is the worst, Christmas market declares.
Photo: DPA
Politics
Can 'sorry' ever be enough for the Linke?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles through December 19th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,171
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd