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A child’s struggle with cancer

By Vision Reporter

Added 21st March 2004 03:00 AM

SHE gives me a radiant smile as I take a seat beside her wheel chair – the property of the day care center at Hospice Uganda, where she goes every week.

SHE gives me a radiant smile as I take a seat beside her wheel chair – the property of the day care center at Hospice Uganda, where she goes every week.

She is clad in a white dress, which she keeps pulling over her thin, paralysed legs to avoid revealing the urine bag, which flows freely through the catheter.

Unlike the other children, she has to be equipped with extra urine bags in addition to spare clothes. At 12, Shana Nabatanzi (not her realname) has learnt to change her urine bag unaided.

At her home in Kawempe, Nabatanzi goes to bed equipped with a small oil lamp (tadoba) and a matchbox since her family does not have electricity.

Nabatanzi stays with her father whose only source of income is performing acrobatics in primary schools around the area. But despite not having a stable income, he is a loving father.

Nabatanzi was a normal child going to school at Makerere University Primary School.

During in primary two, she started complaining of abdominal pain. She was then taken to a private clinic where she was treated for malaria and a urinary tract infection but her condition worsened and finally her legs became paralysed.

On May 22, 2001, she was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma.
“They used to give me Ibuprofen and the pain would stop for some time,” says Nabatanzi.

“Then people from Hospice came and visited me in hospital, they gave me morphine and told me I had cancer,” she adds.

After she was discharged the Hospice team visited her. “They said they would be picking me up for day-care and to play with other children.”

According to Dr Eddie Mwebesa, Burkitt’s lymphoma is a cancer that affects the lymphatic system and is treatable if detected early.

Mwebesa says that by the time Nabatanzi was diagnosed it had spread to her spinal column.

Nabatanzi has however, learnt to accept her situation. Her greatest wish says it all. “I would like to have a wheel chair of my own so I can move about. My friends keep complaining about coming to my home all the time without me going to theirs.”

A child’s struggle with cancer

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