Simon Bailey is Professor of paediatric neuro-oncology and consultant paediatric oncologist at the Sir James Spence Institute of Child Health at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle. Today, Simon shares his story on how he became a World Child Cancer volunteer and the importance of giving;
Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries yet it is also one of the friendliest. Blantyre, the country’s biggest city, is home to the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH). The paediatric oncology unit at the hospital was set up by Professor Molyneux nearly 30 years ago and over the years steady progress has been made to improve the treatment standards for children with cancer.
On a personal level, I have always had an interest in Malawi with my parents moving there when I was at university and I was one of Professor Molyneux’s elective students whilst at medical school in Cape Town. In 2004, SIOP Africa (International Society of Paediatric Oncology) held their meeting in Malawi and as a consultant paediatric oncologist, I visited the unit at QECH. It was through my friendship with Professor Molyneux that I became more involved in her amazing work.
The Oncology team in Newcastle upon Tyne have worked together with Professor Molyneux and Dr George Chagaluka, Malawi’s only paediatric oncologist, to help QECH in many ways. We have developed a range of treatment protocols together for acute leukaemia (for which there were none before), retinoblastoma, low grade brain tumours and helped further refine the Burkitt lymphoma protocols. The team assists in data analyse and provides advice for children with clinical dilemmas. The strong support network of the team in Newcastle provide healthcare professionals in Malawi guidance on diagnosis and treatment.
I visit Malawi once a year to offer my support on ward rounds, data analysis as well as providing clinical support for the team. We are also in regular email contact when I am back in the UK. The team in Malawi is incredible, Professor Molyneux has set up and developed a unit which gives treatment and care far exceeding that which would be expected for the resources available and Dr Chagaluka is continuing this magnificent work.
However, there is still much more to do, the supportive care that is necessary needs further development and funding. World Child Cancer’s Stop the Childhood Cancer Clock appeal aims to address the fact that a child with cancer dies in a developing country every 3 minutes. With your support, we can provide the incredible team at QECH the platform to give more children with cancer the gift of growing up.