Angela grins as she hugs her panda, a small toy that means so much to this six-year-old girl. Her mother, Linda, sits beside her bed and smiles as she sees her daughter playing with the bear, but these smiles have only recently returned to the faces of this mother and daughter.
In November 2017, Angela came home early from school after suffering from unbearable pains in her ribs. Her mother took her to a local health centre who prescribed her with some very strong pain killers but soon after Angela started to develop a swelling in her stomach.
Linda was determined to find help for her daughter and visited several more healthcare centres without success. Meg Collington, Health Partnerships and Programme Officer, spoke to Linda when visited Malawi;
“Linda told us about her struggles in finding out what was wrong with her daughter let alone gaining access to treatment. Time is precious when dealing with childhood cancer and it was incredibly important that she was referred to the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) so she could receive the care and treatment she desperately needed.”
It took six months for the family to be referred to QECH. Six months of lost time, expensive travelling and ineffective drugs.
“Without Linda’s determination, they would not have made it this far.”
Angela initially struggled to sleep when arriving at QECH because she was in so much pain meaning her mother had to pour cold water over her during the night to comfort her. Linda told us how Angela could only sleep when tied to her back using a sling. Since arriving at QECH and having chemotherapy treatment, the swelling in her stomach has decreased dramatically and her pain has eased.
Despite her daughter starting her road to recovery, Linda’s struggles have continued. She has not been able to farm this season because of all the time she spent going back and forth to health centres and time spent in hospital meaning she is struggling for money to support her children at home. Despite this, seeing her daughter smile again is all that matters to her right now.
“Despite having cancer, Angela is still like many other girls her age. Her favourite game is piggy in the middle and she misses going to school. Her dream is to become a nurse after watching all the nurses on the ward take care of the children around her but for now she is happy taking care of her panda she called Patricia!”
World Child Cancer is planning to implement training sessions later this year in Southern Regions of Malawi to educate healthcare professionals on the signs and symptoms of childhood cancer. This will help give more children a faster route to better treatment.