Can you imagine needing medical care for your child but being unable to simply and safely take them to see a doctor? That's the case in low-and middle-income countries, where less than 30% of children with cancer survive due to unavailable or unaffordable treatment.
Abigail was six years old when she experienced high fevers for many days. Her grandmother, Suzan, took her to the nearby health center in their village six times. As symptoms persisted, she was brought into Mbingo Baptist Hospital in Cameroon where she was finally diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). ALL is a common childhood cancer of the blood and bone marrow that affects white blood cells.
To save her life from ALL, Abigail and her grandmother had to risk their lives to get treatment.
“Her grandmother braved crossfire, insecurity, and kidnapping, and brought Abigail to get the care she needed,” recalls Abigail’s doctor, Dr. Kouya Francine, an oncology pioneer from the Mbingo Baptist Hospital.
“I wanted Abigail to get well,” said Suzan, who began traveling up to six hours one-way, sometimes by a bike taxi, to take Abigail to the doctor. At the time of her diagnosis, Cameroon was amid a political and humanitarian crisis. Hundreds of thousands of people had fled their homes and hospitals, schools were being burned, and local business collapsed, increasing the index of poverty.
"Even now, many children remain vulnerable because their parents will not be able to bring them to the hospital because of extreme poverty," said Dr. Francine.
World Cancer Research Day is a global effort to bring awareness and support to better understand how to prevent and treat cancer. Conquer Cancer®, the ASCO Foundation, supports the research of every type of cancer, everywhere in the world, so patients like Abigail have better access to treatment and care.
With support from a Conquer Cancer grant, Dr. Francine is researching ways to increase survival rates in Africa, where most of her patients live in remote conditions that challenge their access to care. The program she created provides resources patients need to survive beyond their medication, and it connects patients to other survivors to reduce social stigmas surrounding sickness and visible side-effects of cancer treatment.
“It helps so many kids,” said Dr. Francine. “We do it so other people will believe if you have cancer in Africa, you can survive.”
And Abigail, now 10 and cancer-free, is proof. “She is fine now,” said Suzan. “If you see her, you would not know she had been sick.”
On World Cancer Research Day, will you make a gift to fund cancer research and other vital programs to help patients around the world like Abigail?