Gabriella lives with her husband and two boys in the Northern region of Ghana, about a twelve hour drive from Accra, the capital. She is currently living away from home, with her young son Caden so that he can receive treatment for his cancer.
Caden is five years old, and has been at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra for about eight months, after his mother noticed that he had difficulty breathing. She was concerned, so took him to the local hospital. They didn’t know what was wrong with him, so sent her home. A few weeks later Caden was still having problems breathing and Gabriella noticed that he had a lump behind his ear, so she took him back to the hospital. Again, the local team didn’t know what was wrong with her son so sent her away. Her husband told her to go to his father who is a local healer and he prepared an herbal medicine for her to apply to Caden’s neck. She tried this for a week or so, but didn’t feel that there was any improvement so she decided, against the wishes of her husband and his family, to take Caden back to the hospital. Gabriella feels lucky that after tests and a wait of a week or two for the results, she was referred to the ‘white man’ at the nearby Teaching Hospital who examined Caden and did a CT scan. He told her that Caden had a cancerous tumour which was moving across his neck and would soon kill him. She was very distressed, felt very alone and was scared that she was going to lose her son. The doctor referred Caden to Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, which has a specialist paediatric oncology team, and told Gabriella to go there straight away. Gabriella and Caden took a local flight, because they couldn’t afford the cost of a private ambulance. They arrived in Accra at about 3am and went straight to the hospital where Caden was admitted, fighting for his life.
Caden was diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. His chances of survival were very poor as his tumour was large. He was given chemotherapy and needed to have a tube inserted in his neck to assist his breathing. Gabriella found this very distressing and is keen for the tube to be removed as soon as possible because it reminds her how ill her son once was.
The lengthy and intensive treatment that Caden needed has been very costly for the family and put a strain on relationships. Gabriella’s husband and extended family can’t understand why it is taking so long for them to come home. She hasn’t told them about the cancer because they are strong believers in traditional medicine; she has simply told them that Caden is getting better and will be able to come home soon. Gabriella reflects that it is her determination to seek medical help for her son that means that he is alive today. She is keen to tell other parents in Ghana to ‘keep going to the hospital’ if they see changes in the health of their child.
She is sad that she doesn’t have the support of her family, but is convinced that she did the right thing and that they will understand in time. She looks forward to a brighter future when she can return to school to complete her seamstress qualifications and the family can live together. In Ghana, World Child Cancer provides funding to help families who can’t pay for their treatment and need other financial support such as living costs and travel to visit their families. This is administered by the local healthcare team who decide how best to distribute the funds between those with the most need. We also support the work of the team at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, in Kumasi by raising funds to improve their facilities and facilitating training for healthcare staff to enable them to improve the diagnosis and care for children with cancer.