Nurses and family members agree that the best way to describe Anit is happy and playful. But when she was ill, Anit was so sick that her father, Simon, worried she would die. After months of seeking answers at seven different clinics and hospitals, he feared there was nothing left to do for his daughter. Not wanting to give up hope, Simon brought Anit to Bugando Medical Centre. There, she finally received a diagnosis: cancer. The year-long treatment was incredibly challenging for the entire family. The harvest failed, meaning Anit’s siblings often went hungry, and Simon was unable to work during her treatment. In the face of such challenging circumstances, curing Anit has truly been a family effort. iCCARE has stood alongside the family in their fight. For Simon, seeing his child back to her playful self has made all the sacrifice worth it. “She is just so happy. She has even started running again. These things give me the heart and energy to keep going and to see that God is here.”
Anit with her father, Simon:
RR comes from the Kamwege district in western Uganda. RR was diagnosed at 12 years of age with an early stage Burkitt’s lymphoma of the Jaw and enrolled into the BL project in January, 2013. He was initially admitted accompanied by both of his parents and a 2-year-old brother. His mother was pregnant at the time. RR defaulted after the first treatment dose because his mother had given birth and his father was alcohol dependent. RR subsequently returned in the company of his 16-year-old sister and resumed on treatment. The project provided supportive counseling, transport to and from hospital, meals, and paid for investigations that were associated with a cost. He completed his entire prescribed courses and was declared tumor free. He is now in long-term follow-up and attending school.
While visiting Kenya, board member Ruth Wang’ondo spent time visiting with patients at the JOORTH clinic. One 11 year old boy, Calvin, had many reasons to smile. He was looking forward to traveling back home to spend two weeks with his two siblings and father after having been away for two months while undergoing his first course of chemotherapy for Burkitt’s Lymphoma. He was healthier than he had been in more than a year. His mother explained that his remarkable state of health seemed unimaginable in January when she brought her emaciated son into the hospital. At the time his abdomen was so swollen that he could barely breathe. She was grateful that her child was able to access treatment thanks to funds from BLFA and had every intention of bringing her son back to the hospital after a two week break to complete subsequent courses of chemotherapy.
At 4 years old Reagan was admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Lacor, Uganda as a referral from his home district 4-5 hours away. His mother reported that he had been unwell for about 3 months with facial swelling and loosening of teeth. An admission biopsy confirmed Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Following diagnosis his mother was devastated and requested to return home upon hearing the diagnosis. Aided by the St. Mary’s hospital and Family Home teams, she made the courageous decision to remain. Reagan’s chemotherapy began, and he responded very well to treatment. The Family Home services, including schooling for Regan and active involvement of the social worker, contributed greatly to Reagan’s adherence to treatment. His mother had many responsibilities at home on the family’s subsistence farm. Reagan’s mother said, “this was an amazing love that I could never repay, thank you so much……”.
Reagan at age 4:
Jacinta’s life was transformed by her ability to receive treatment in collaboration with the BLFA. She was treated at the Soto Health Center in Shirati, Tanzania. See Jacinta and read her amazing story here.
Robinah lost both her parents and is supported by her uncle in their rural parish 2 ½ hours away from St. Mary’s Hospital, Lacor. When they arrived at St. Mary’s, Robinah’s older brother reported she had a long history of painless jaw swelling so the family had not sought care previously. However, four months prior she developed abdominal and lower limb swelling and had difficulty breathing. At admission, the hospital performed a biopsy that confirmed the suspected diagnosis of Burkitt’s Lymphoma. She promptly started on chemotherapy. After the second cycle she was doing so well that she requested to go back home as her brother needed to continue with school. St. Mary’s called her caretaker informing them it would be best if Robinah stayed at the hospital’s family home and she was able to complete her chemotherapy. At the home Robinah made friends who have become like a second family. She also continued school, which she was very excited about as the 1-year illness had caused her to stop going to school.
Ethan Cafferky, a 6-year-old American boy from Boston, was diagnosed with Stage III Burkitt’s lymphoma just a few weeks after the start of first grade in September 2013. Despite his illness, Ethan always has a smile on his face. In wanting to learn more about the disease, he researched Burkitt’s lymphoma with his parents and uncovered the BLFA and the stories of children in Africa. He knew that these children did nothave access to the care that he was receiving at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Ethan was moved by this and wanted to make a difference.
He first wrote a letter to Miriam Sevy, the BLFA founder
The result of their interaction was that Ethan’s school, Muraco elementary school in Winchester, Massachusetts, planned a Walk-A-Thon to raise enough money to fund treatment for at least 1 child in Africa. The concept grew into the addition of an art auction and raised over $16,000 for BLFA, the equivalent of treatment for more than 25 children.
Ruth Wangondu, a BLFA board director who is doing an MD/PhD pediatrics residency at Yale Medical School, visited with Ethan Cafferky’s first grade class. She made a presentation to them about Burkitt’s lymphoma, showing photos of the children at the clinics in Africa. The class was thrilled to have a Kenyan doctor come visit them and teach them more about this disease.