Rooting out cancer myths a vital task

2017-08-23 06:00

Ignorance regarding cancer is rife in remote rural communities, as many people still wrongly believe that cancer is contagious.

Cancer diagnosis made

A little girl was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of one year and five months in November 2012.

The first symptoms that caused concern were vomiting and bloody stools. Her mom took her to the local hospital. She was referred to the Klerksdorp clinic, then to Kimberley and also to Bloemfontein.

After five months of struggling to find an answer, the child was diagnosed and admitted to an oncology unit in March 2013. She already had stage-two cancer at the time of diagnosis.

Challenges are many

“It is difficult to take care of a sick child when you do not have any income other than a child grant. There is not always clean running water or ideal conditions,” the child’s mother says.

“We have travelled from my village to Vryburg, Kimberley and Bloemfontein many times. It can take 15 to 20 hours to travel with all the taxis and be in time to see the doctor. The hardest part is to take the only money you have to get to a doctor and then you are left with almost nothing to eat for the rest of the month.

“The lack of knowledge and understanding in our village is extreme. The majority still believe that my child is contagious and can harm them. My child was kicked out of nursery school because other parents were scared that my child could infect their children.”

CANSA reaches out to ­educate

Staff members of the CANSA Kimberley Care Centre went out of their way to travel to the region where the little girl and her mother live to offer support and information.

They met with numerous members of the community to raise awareness on childhood cancer and support for daughter and mother.

A large crowd of the community gathered as staff shared info on cancer myths. Early cancer detection services were also provided.

Vera van Dalen, national project manager of CANSA’s TLC programme, organised an additional session with the mother, principal and community that led to another outreach in the region.

CANSA met with the principal to explain the situation, which improved only for a short time. Over a period of a week, parents started to take their children out of school due to the situation worsening.

The problem was now reported to be triggered by the village chief not being well-informed on cancer.

The way forward involves commitment

The little girl is now three years old and is still receiving treatment.

Her hair is growing again, but she battles with constant infections. It is sad that she does not have many friends, seemingly because people in her community are still scared of her disease.

Although the mother and her ­daughter’s living circumstances have improved a bit, it is obvious that there is still a lot of hard work and ­education to be done in their community.

CANSA’s TLC staff in Kimberley continue to go out of their way to make a difference.

Communities at large are urged to support the families of young cancer patients.

The TLC programme in Kimberley continues to grow and offer support to all children and families affected by cancer throughout this vast region.

Families in the Northern Cape can contact the TLC team at CANSA’s Kimberley Care Centre.

Due to the costs involved in cancer treatment and the cost of transport to reach hospitals for treatment, many families affected by cancer struggle with the basic necessities. – CANSA

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