• Germany edition
 
'Young cancer sufferers have specific problems'
Photo: Friederike Kaup

'Young cancer sufferers have specific problems'

Published: 27 May 2013 07:22 GMT+02:00
Updated: 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
North braces for storms and floods
Cars waiting to be loaded onto the ferry at Bremerhaven, Lower Saxony, were caught in flooding on Wendnesday. Photo: DPA

North braces for storms and floods

UPDATE: The remnants of hurricane Gonzalo have drifted across the Atlantic and are now threatening North German cities with flooding, forecasters warned on Wednesday. The news followed a night of accidents caused by heavy winds in southern Germany. READ  

Kerry's challenge to Russia at Berlin Wall
US Secretary of State John Kerry at the Berlin Wall. Photo: DPA

Kerry's challenge to Russia at Berlin Wall

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited remnants of the Berlin Wall on Wednesday and warned that East-West tensions again threaten freedom in Europe, 25 years after its collapse. READ  

Satirist lives the dream on EU gravy train
Sonneborn in the EU Parliament. Photo: DPA

Satirist lives the dream on EU gravy train

Martin Sonneborn can’t believe his luck. The German comedian, leader of the political party “Die Partei”, managed to get elected to the European Parliament in May, and has found himself overwhelmed with fresh material. READ  

The Local List
Which high school cliche is your city?
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock

Which high school cliche is your city?

This week's Local List takes a leap of imagination and finds German cities fit perfectly into high school cliche categories. Who's the class clown? Who's the nerd? READ  

Indian schools drop German teaching
Indian pupils enrolled in German classes prepare for Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's visit to their school. Photo: DPA

Indian schools drop German teaching

Thousands of children in India will no longer be taught German after the country's education ministry allowed a contract to lapse. READ  

Syria-bound US teens stopped in Frankfurt
A passenger plane landing at Frankfurt airport. Photo: DPA

Syria-bound US teens stopped in Frankfurt

Three teenage girls from Colorado were arrested by German police at Frankfurt airport after running away from home, reportedly on their way to join Isis in Syria. READ  

Tourists stranded on cable car over Rhine
Tuesday night's rescue operation Photo: DPA

Tourists stranded on cable car over Rhine

Six people, including a family and two American tourists, were left dangling 40 metres in the air over the Rhine for hours late on Tuesday after Cologne's cable car came to a halt. READ  

7:1! Bayern celebrate record in Rome
Arjen Robben celebrates the first goal against AS Roma. Photo: DPA

7:1! Bayern celebrate record in Rome

Bayern Munich were elated on Tuesday night after securing a 7-1 victory against Roma in their group stage Champions League clash. READ  

Nazi U-boat wreck found off US coast
A preserved World War II U-Boat on the beach near Kiel, Germany. Photo: DPA

Nazi U-boat wreck found off US coast

A World War II German U-boat and an American merchant vessel it sank in battle have been found deep in the ocean off the coast of North Carolina, officials said on Tuesday. READ  

Fourth time lucky for free Berlin WiFi?
Coming soon? Photo: DPA

Fourth time lucky for free Berlin WiFi?

Berlin's bid to set up a free city-wide wireless network has so far come to nothing. But city bosses are now trying for a fourth time - and hope to have the project running next year. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
An international school unlike any other : School on the Rhine
Photo: Fitzpatrick family
Society
'We still don't know what happened to Matthew'
Photo: Mariana Schroeder
Munich
Special Report: Hope and chaos at Munich's refugee shelters
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Robbers blow up Berlin bank
Photo: DPA
Culture
Can you top our history quiz leaderboard?
Photo: Facebook
Society
German motorcycle gang joins Isis fight
Photo: DPA
Politics
UKIP ‘seeks EU pact’ with German satirical party
Photo: DPA
Gallery
PHOTOS: World's biggest erotic fair opens in Berlin
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
11 things Germans are afraid of...
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The ten richest people in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
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

3,491
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd