My Role as a Henry Dancer Days Storyteller

Carmel Page

On the edge of Sheffield’s city centre is our Children’s Hospital. On the edge of the hospital is Ward Six. You can only get in if the staff let you in. The ward has isolation rooms where children and young people with cancer have complex treatments. Once the treatment begins the children can’t come out until the doctors say so. It can be for months on end.

The doors are unlocked; parents and staff go in and out. The children stay in the room. They are attached to chemotherapy pumps, feeding tubes, monitors, oxygen supplies, even if they had the energy to get out of bed they would struggle to get to the door. They can’t escape but I can go in.

I am a storyteller working for Henry Dancer Days but I feel like a transport manager. I assess where the family are and try to take them somewhere better. I like to give children a choice of story. Picture books for the younger ones, told dramatically with lots of Whooooosh! and Zoooom! and Splash! Or more calmly, if they are very poorly. Older children like joke books, poems and short stories read or told by me. I aim to transport the families into story-land, break the monotony and lift their spirits.

The medical staff, play team and hospital school do amazing work but these families are beyond the reach of most services. My job is as much about building trusting relationships as telling stories, so the families feel less alone. I wouldn’t wish childhood cancer on any family, but I’m proud to be part of the Ward Six team using my storytelling skills to improve these children’s lives.