Tisungeni Chitseko was a happy, healthy child that lived in southern Malawi with her parents and two siblings but at the tender age of three, a mass started to develop in her abdomen. Worried about their daughter, her parents took her to the local village healer several times before eventually consulting a local doctor. Fortunately for Tisungeni, the doctor immediately spotted signs of cancer and referred her to the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre – a 55 mile journey from her home village.
With Tisungeni's parents unable to make the journey because it would mean being unable to work and support the rest of the family, it was Tisungeni's grandmother that accompanied her on her journey to Balntyre.
Tisungeni was diagnosed with Wilms' tumour, a form of kidney cancer, by Professor Molyneux and her team. . Even in a developing country Wilms' tumour is receptive to surgery and chemotherapy and children like Tisungeni can be saved with appropriate treatment.
Tisungeni and her grandmother remained in hospital for over two months; undergoing chemotherapy, surgery and two further post operative chemotherapy courses. Despite Tisungeni’s family being reasonably well off by local standards, they still struggled to pay for transport costs when travelling to and from hospital between breaks in treatment.
Tisungeni and her grandmother were able to receive funds to cover their transport costs to and from hospital. Many families are unable to afford basic travel costs and this can be a major reason for the large number of children who abandon treatment. Fortunately, Tisungeni completed her full course of treatment and returned to her village fit and healthy. A follow up visit by Mr Banda, the clinical outreach officer, six months later confirmed that she was continuing to do well.
World Child Cancer is helping the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital to develop and improve its care of children with cancer through facilitation of a twinning partnership with VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, UK which provides essential medical expertise and funding for costs.