Fighting childhood cancer
The word ‘cancer’ is so powerful that it instantly invokes reactions.
So many people across the world have been affected by the illness. Around 14 million new cases of cancer occur every year, and, according to the World Cancer Research Fund, by 2035, the annual number is expected to increase to 24 million.
Of these, more than 200,000 newly diagnosed cases are children.
Islamic Relief has committed USD $10 million to funding the Islamic Relief Oncology Centre of Excellence, which will be part of Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, currently under construction in Johannesburg, South Africa and due to be finished in 2016.
The cutting-edge centre will provide quality care for all children – regardless of their ability to pay. Currently, while in countries like the UK, the survival rate for children with cancer is as high as 80 per cent, in Africa, half the children diagnosed with cancer will die as a result of the illness.
When it is operational, the Islamic Relief Oncology Centre of Excellence will support children like seven-year-old Jason Kilimbase, who was diagnosed with cancer when he was just one year old.
To mark World Cancer Day, he is sharing his story.
When Jason was diagnosed in 2007, he and his mother Julia had to travel 350km (around 220 miles) from their home to Johannesburg General Hospital for treatment. In 2009, when he was just two-years old, surgeons removed one of his kidneys and Jason went into remission. They returned home to start rebuilding their life.
Jason grew stronger, playing with his two siblings, while Julia felt free to return to work, taking a job as a receptionist. They grew optimistic about the future.
Then, in September 2013, Jason started complaining of headaches, began to vomit continuously, and lost his appetite. Scans at Johannesburg General Hospital discovered a brain tumour. Two months later, he went into surgery and it was removed.
Fighting against cancer
Jason and Julia have been in Johannesburg since September 2013. Julia has left her job and her home to support Jason, while her other two children are being looked after by her parents.
Jason still needs to have radiation treatment to beat the cancer. He goes into hospital five days a week. When he feels well enough, he enjoys playing on the swings and going to the zoo to see the animals. He is shy, even around other children.
The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital has been designed with children like Jason in mind. Nelson Mandela believed that all children should receive excellent medical care and treatment, whatever their financial means.
The completed hospital will treat children with all conditions. It will be light and airy with a secret garden at its centre and has been designed to be inviting to the many children who have long, difficult stays in hospital for treatment.