Keisha and her mother live in a small town called Limbe in the Southwest Region of Cameroon. Limbe is a seaside town situated on the slopes of Mount Cameroon, an active volcano and the fourth highest peak in Africa.
When Keisha is not at school she works with her mother growing vegetables on their small plot of land. Making ends meet is difficult for the family as Keisha’s father left when she was very young and their land produces very little corn for them to sell in the market.
When Keisha was just 2 years old her mother noticed some unusual swelling on her neck. She had not been well for some time and had caught malaria several months before. When the swelling did not go down Keisha’s mother decided to take her to the local Baptist Hospital in Mutengene (a short bus ride away) where she met Dr Paul Wharin, a retired GP from the UK. Paul had been working in Cameroon for several years with Prof Peter Hesseling supporting childhood cancer services across the country.
Dr Wharin quickly suspected that the swelling could be Burkitt lymphoma and admitted her to the Children’s Cancer Ward to undergo further tests.
Keisha’s mother remembers when the doctors confirmed Keisha’s diagnosis and how upset she was. She did not know if cancer in children could be treated or even cured. To make the situation worse, Keisha had also been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
Keisha started chemotherapy immediately and was able to return home between the treatment cycles. Whilst the treatment made her feel ill, the swelling in her neck started to reduce and she gradually began to feel better. Her mother was extremely thankful for the financial support they received as the costs of the drugs would have been far too much for them to afford.
Keisha’s is now 10 years old and has made a full recovery from Burkitt lymphoma. She travels each month to the hospital in order to collect her HIV medication but is able to live a normal life. Between school and when she is not working on the farmland she enjoys playing with her neighbours in the streets of Limbe.