Hla is 10 years old and has been suffering with synovial sarcoma – a rare form of cancer which occurs in the soft tissue. Hla’s mother first noticed that she had a swelling in her stomach and swollen lymph nodes back in March 2015. As soon as she noticed the swelling, she took Hla to her local hospital in the Ayeyarwady region of Myanmar. A surgeon took a biopsy of the tumour and sent them to Yangon Children’s Hospital – one of the two hospitals in Myanmar able to treat childhood cancer.
Unfortunately, after spending 4 months at Yangon Children’s Hospital, the family were having financial problems and left the hospital to go home and go back to work. Families in Myanmar have to cover the majority of the cost of childhood cancer treatment and at least one parent will have to give up work to look after their child in hospital. It is often the case that money runs outs quickly and families often leave the hospital before treatment has been completed.
The family stayed at home, in the Ayeyarwady region of Myanmar for 10 months but had to come back in May 2016 when Hla started to feel very unwell. Since being back at the hospital, Hla has had 14 weeks of chemotherapy treatment.
Hla usually stays in the hospital for 2 weeks at a time and is able to go home for 2 weeks in-between, if doctors decide that she is well enough. It takes the family 13 hours to reach the hospital from their new home in Mandalay; 1 hour on a motorcycle and 12 hours on a bus. Making this journey every 2 weeks is expensive for the family. Fortunately, our partner organisation, Please Take Me There is supporting Hla and her family with transport costs to and from the hospital which makes it easier for them to continue with Hla’s treatment.
Her mother says Hla loves to play at home with her friends, but cannot play as much at the hospital. However, she is able to attend ‘Heroes School’, the hospital school set up and supported by World Child Cancer, when she is well enough. Hla’s favourite activity at school is drawing.
World Child Cancer are working to encourage families like Hla’s to continue treatment by subsiding drug costs, supporting nutrition and providing psycho-social support. Children like Hla must finish their treatment to give them a chance of survival.