The saddest part of my visit to Yangon Children’s Hospital was to meet a young woman called Dailiy. When World Child Cancer was charity of the year for the Financial Times two years ago a journalist came and interviewed Daly who was being treated for leukaemia, and wrote a very moving article. Dailiy was full of hope for the future, keen to get her treatment behind her and get back into school to get on with achieving her ambition to qualify as a teacher.
At the time her treatment was going well, and she was discharged a while later and her lessons resumed and her dream looked like it would be realised. At that time her picture was on the cover of our Annual Report and we were all so hopeful that she would be one of our success stories.
Having read so much about her and seen her picture so many times I felt like I knew her. So being introduced this week to a very sick 14 year old, lying prone on her bed with her mother sitting beside her holding her hand, was a very sad thing. She has relapsed and while the doctors do what they can the prognosis does not look good.
Cancer is a cruel burden for children to bear, with so much discomfort and uncertainty over such a long time. But I was also struck by the sadness of the doctors and staff over Dailiy’s relapse. They treat these children for so long that they come to know them very personally, and helping a child, and a family, as hope slips away is very hard and very stressful. They support each other and try and focus on the growing number of successes in the unit. And yet it is still very hard.
In London over 95% of the children with the type of leukaemia that Dailiy has can now expect to survive. We can now aim for a world where no child dies of this illness. But some days that road seems longer than others.
The programme in Myanmar is funded with UK Aid from the UK government.