International Childhood Cancer Day (ICCD) is observed across the globe on 15 February to raise awareness about childhood cancer. The day is also dedicated to showing support for children and adolescents living with cancer, survivors and their families.
According to ICCD, more than 300,000 children from birth to 19 years are diagnosed with cancer around the world. Approximately eight in 10 of these children live in low and middle-income countries where their survival rate is around 20%.
To help fight against the stigma attached to childhood cancer, Dineo Mokoena from Thokoza, east of Johannesburg, says her child was diagnosed at the age of four in 2015 with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, a cancer of the blood.
Even though Mokoena knew nothing about childhood cancer at the time, she says her daughter used to complain about her joints and she was losing weight drastically which made her visit the local hospital.
“When my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, I was relieved because now I knew the cause of her sickness. It pains when your child is sick and you don’t know what is wrong, it was very traumatising.”
[LISTEN] Dineo Mokoena urges parents not to be ignorant when their kids are sick.
Mokoena says her daughter, who is now nine-years-old, was on chemotherapy for six months and responded well to the treatment. Almost two years later the daughter has not been on chemotherapy.
“The doctors say she will be cancer free after five years, but I always tell myself that she is cancer free,” says Mokoena.
Mokoena is pleading with government to subsidise cancer patients with healthy meal vouchers because their meals changes once diagnosed.
In a quest to educate the community about childhood cancer Mokoena recently hosted a walk of hope in the township. She urged parents not to be ignorant when their kids start complaining about being sick.
Infographic comparing childhood cancer survival/death in low and high income countries.
Meanwhile, Limpopo based parent Refiloe Ledwaba says her child was diagnosed with Liver cancer at the age of four. She says her child was constantly vomiting, having tonsils and drastically weight.
Ledwaba says the reception in her community regarding her son’s condition was not well received. “People from my own church would say we are not praying enough, we have sinned to God and that a child will be punished because of their parents. Some people would say its witchcraft not cancer.”
Ledwaba gets invited to local clinics and school to do talks regarding childhood cancer.
Parents of children diagnosed with cancer are pleading with government and communities to join hands and teach people about childhood cancer.