Children Living with Cancer
The memories we make as children live with us for the rest of our lives. The games we play, the friends we make, they all form the foundation on which we place the building blocks of the rest of our lives.
However, for some children, their childhood memories are largely made up of visits in and out of hospital, the financial strains of such trips on parents are seen by the children who are trying to understand why mum and dad look stressed. These are some of the experiences of children living with cancer.
One of such children is Michael Onyewuchi. He has leukemia. His mother Mrs Ijeoma Onyewuchi, says it is difficult to watch him go through overwhelming and excruciating pains.
“Before I went to LUTH,” Ijeoma says, “Michael could not walk. I kept on strapping him to my back as he had serious fever. He was two then and now he’s six. I was asked to get through series of tests, and that revealed that it was leukemia. For more than one year, they have been calling me to come and have Michael do the final test. Many children die through the process anyway.
Some parents, whose children are also living with cancer, say only few childhood cancer cases receive complete therapy as some children die in the course of therapy either from the disease being at an advanced stage or complications from chemotherapy or late detection.
“The experience I had with this child is very dangerous. Had I known I would have gone to the hospital in time. But I didn’t know that children also have cancer. I’m advising parents, any time you see the symptom, just go straight to hospital.”
When that child was 12 years old, he had measles and that led to headache. He was given some drugs and after six months, he kept complaining about that severe headache. He got blind and was referred to UCH Ibadan where he was diagnosed with brain cancer. It’s a very pathetic issue and he did the surgery last July. He was transferred from UCH to LUTH Lagos for radio therapy.
A Consultant Paediatrician, Dr. Nneka Nwobbi, said more than 300 thousand children in the world are diagnosed with cancer in a year. Dr. Nwobi explained that the survival rate of children living with cancer in Nigeria is 20 percent as against 80 percent abroad.
According to Nwobbi, “we have many children coming down with cancer every year. Unfortunately, because we don’t have adequate cancer registry in Nigeria, we don’t know the number of children who come down with cancer.”
She says early detection of childhood cancer is crucial to improving the rate of survival and better health outcomes for children/adolescents with cancer.
Dr. Nwobi says the most common types of cancer in children and adolescent is leukemia, which is the cancer of the blood or bone marrow cells. Cancerous cells can also attack the brain and central nervous system tumors, amongst others.
“There are different types of cancers in a child. From the head to the toe, we have brain, eye, nerves, skin, kidney, liver, blood, bone, name it; we have all these cancers in children.
“The pattern of leukemia for example mimics fever, such as malaria, and anemia. If you look at the child, he or she looks pale. In brain tumor cancer, there is vomiting, change in character, the head could start getting bigger, and organs in the head may start protruding.
Dr. Nwobbi, who is also the founder of Children Living with Cancer Foundation, urged private companies to invest in Corporate Social Responsibility projects for these cancer patients to access treatment.
“If we can do anything to help these children and their parents, it will be very welcomed. Now, the other thing that we see parents losing their jobs when their children are undergoing some treatments. There is the case of a man who stayed with his child at the hospital and the woman was running around for other things. He got a notice from the office that if he didn’t resume that week, he would be sacked. These are some of the challenges we come across and people need to know they’re real.”
Meanwhile, Michael’s parents remain hopeful and trust in modern science that their son will form happy childhood memories after becoming cancer-free.
This report was produced for 99.3 Nigeria Info FM by Joy Kalio
Voicing by Bimbo Awoyele
Posted by Jude Chukwuemeka