CLWF celebrates survivors of childhood cancer – The Sun Nigeria

By Johnson Adebowale

March 31 was a remarkable day for children who survived cancer as they met some of their sponsors, who took care of their hospital bills during their hospitalization.

The event took place at the Sickle Cell Centre, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Lagos.

The children and their parents praised the Children Living With Cancer Foundation (CLWCF) for the love they showed during their hospital stay.

The event was organized by CLWCF, a non-governmental organization (NGO), when they joined the rest of the world to celebrate International Children’s Cancer Day, with the theme ‘Through your hands’.

One of the survivors, Oluchi Onyekwe, couldn’t hide her joy when she first saw her sponsor. For many beneficiaries, it was an emotional moment.

The founder of CLWCF, Dr. Nneka Nwobbi, said the foundation was established in 2003 with the aim of raising awareness that children can also have cancer, but it is curable.

It was also “to give children with cancer free access to treatment at the LUTH and other facilities where these children are treated,” she said. Nwobbi added that at some point there was a need for an NGO for children with cancer.

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She said: “This year’s theme is ‘Through your hands’, that is, through the hands of the doctors, nurses, the media and everyone who has contributed to bringing relief to the child.”

She said one of the challenges the foundation faced was public ignorance: “A lot of people don’t know that children have cancer and it is always difficult to get the child to the hospital in time for treatment. Because they bring their children too late, there is not much that can be done for that child at that time.

“In developed countries they have a cure rate of 80 to 90 percent, but in Nigeria the cure rate is about 25 percent and this is because there is more awareness about childhood cancer.”

The founder complained that there were no government hospitals in Nigeria that treat children with cancer for free.

She said that in the past 19 years, the foundation has cared for more than 500 children with cancer from different parts of Nigeria on request.

“Awareness of childhood cancer is increasing, which is why more and more children are coming for treatment. In a month there could be two or three cases,” she said.

She thanked the organizations that sponsored the foundation this year.

Ms Omu Obiloh, Board Member of CLWCF, said: “There are people who say that cancer is not their share and therefore they will not take their children to the hospital in time for treatment.

“As a foundation we have seen many success stories, although some are not too pleasant. We have really grown thanks to the help of our sponsors, who believe in our cause.”

Osisanya Olusola, a parent whose child has cancer, said his son lost his eyesight due to brain cancer.

He said that Nwobbi through her foundation has been very helpful in treating his child.

He lamented that his son lost his eyesight because the doctors said they didn’t get him to the hospital in time.

He said: “When the illness started in the beginning, we thought it was a spiritual attack and we went from one church to another. We also visited traditional healers, but the tumor kept growing. Unfortunately it was too late when we took him to the hospital.

“My advice to parents is that they should take their children to the hospital if they notice strange things in their children. They should not say that there is no money, but they should first take the child to the hospital.”

Another survivor, Oluchi Onyekwe, said: “Thank you so much for your support. I didn’t know she was the one sponsoring my treatment while I was in the hospital.

“I am a childhood cancer survivor. It all started when I was eight years old. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which mainly affects adults. It took a lot of time and effort for them to figure out what was wrong with me. On that fateful day when I first noticed the pain in my stomach, my sister carried me to church on her back when I couldn’t walk.

“Later we went to so many private hospitals and some said it was an ulcer or some disease, but they were not able to get the correct diagnosis.

“In 2008 my mother was washing me one day and she realized that there was something abnormal in my abdomen, it was swollen and she said what could be the cause? She took me to scan and they said it was not cancer and they removed the swollen part through surgery. After they removed it, the cancer became complete.

“Four years later, where they did, the surgery didn’t heal and I continued to have pain. I couldn’t bend and my stomach started to stick out. There were so many suggestions from people around me.

“When I was taken to private hospitals, they all rejected me because of my condition. And when I was referred to LUTH, the doctors asked my mother why she delayed until my condition worsened.

“They explained to my mother that ovarian cancer can also affect children, and she was surprised. I was placed under treatment and I thank God for CLWCF for coming to my rescue.

“Someone came to the hospital and gave me medicine at that time. One particular drug was over N100,000. Also, some tests were very expensive.

“I want to thank CLWCF for all their support. In the hospital bed, that’s where I got the inspiration that I want to be a nurse to save people’s lives. Although some of the children in the ward died with me, I told God that if I am able to be healed, I will be a nurse so that I can treat these children and help in my own way. Glory be to God, I am in my last year in a nursing school.”

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