• Germany's news in English
 

'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
Sudeten Germans give up 'right to homeland'
Sudeten Germans practising traditional dance at a gathering in 2014. Photo: DPA

Sudeten Germans give up 'right to homeland'

The Sudeten German Homeland Association has given up its claim to the group's former home in parts of the Czech Republic, quieting one of the final echoes of the Second World War. READ  

Minister draws fire over wage transparency plan
Families Minister Manuela Schwesig. Photo: DPA

Minister draws fire over wage transparency plan

Families Minister Manuela Schwesig confirmed on Sunday that she wants a new law allowing women to compare their wages with men doing similar work, provoking angry reactions from employers. READ  

Police wind down Bremen terror response
Heavily-armed police on patrol outside Bremen cathedral. Photo: DPA

Police wind down Bremen terror response

Police in Bremen said that the risk of a terrorist attack had been reduced in the city after they arrested two suspected arms dealers. The city remains under high alert, with special protection for the Jewish community. READ  

Germany's Schäuble softens Greece tone
Photo: DPA

Germany's Schäuble softens Greece tone

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Sunday Greece's new hard-left government needs "a bit of time" but is committed to implementing necessary reforms to resolve its debt crisis. READ  

UK Pegida rally dwarfed by counter-demo
Photo: DPA

UK Pegida rally dwarfed by counter-demo

An estimated 375 people turned out for the Germany-based PEGIDA movement's first demonstration in Britain on Saturday, but were outnumbered by a 2,000-strong crowd of counter-protesters, police said. READ  

Greek PM vows to 'start working hard' after vote
Photo: DPA

Greek PM vows to 'start working hard' after vote

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras vowed Friday to "start working hard" to implement vital reforms in the stricken eurozone country, after Germany's parliament approved a four month extension to its bailout. READ  

Ukraine: troop deaths 'serious breach' of truce
Photo: DPA

Ukraine: troop deaths 'serious breach' of truce

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared the killing of three government troops by pro Moscow rebels a "serious breach of the ceasefire", during a telephone call Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, her office said. READ  

Man wins court battle over loud footsteps
Trouble at the top. Photo: DPA

Man wins court battle over loud footsteps

Germany's highest civil court ruled in favour of a man who swapped the carpet in his new apartment for parquet flooring, incurring the wrath of the retired couple who lived below him over his loud footsteps. READ  

Teachers to strike nationwide from Monday
Photo: DPA

Teachers to strike nationwide from Monday

Teachers all over the country are expected to stike starting Monday, German education trade union GEW said, after negotiations with the wage commission of the federal states (TdL) failed to achieve results. READ  

EU court deals blow to US Iraq objector's hopes
Andre Shepherd at the European Court of Justice in June 2014. Photo: DPA

EU court deals blow to US Iraq objector's hopes

American soldier Andre Shepherd, who applied for asylum in Germany as a conscientious objector against the war in Iraq after going AWOL from his unit, saw a judgement by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) go against him on Thursday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Features
Kafka: puzzling translators 100 years on
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best country to work in?
Photo: Police
Rhineland
Student driver crashes tank into family garden.
Photo: DPA
Politics
There was a notable absence at the Anti-Semitism Commission
Sponsored Article
Tourist or lifer: what sort of expat are you?
National
How Dresden bombing still divides Germany, 70 years on
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Take a cute break with this gallery of baby animals
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
All you ever needed to know about Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
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

3,199
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd