Cooke-Johnson: Children with cancer need our help

The original article can be found in: Barbados Advocate

ANNUALLY there may be between 15 and 20 new cases of children diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately there has always been fewer than seven deaths during that same period.

This was revealed by Dr. Dorothy Cooke-Johnson, Honorary Secretary and Director of the Barbados Cancer Society as she outlined some of the programmes put in place by the organisation to offset the high costs to families with children with cancer.

She was speaking during the official launch of the Magical Storybook Show, a fund raising pantomime, which will be held later in the year.

Explaining that the Society has managed children’s programmes for over 31 years, she said that there have been over 500 children diagnosed during that time, and the organisation has walked hand in hand with many of those families.

“Children who have a diagnosis of cancer need expensive drugs, additional diagnostics… MRIs or tests may not be available free. Drugs such as Mabthera for Non Hodgkins Lymphoma cost $7 000 per dose… Children need to go overseas for treatments such as bone marrow transplant costing $900 000 not including months of accommodation, airfares and living expenses.”

Dr. Cooke-Johnson pointed out that in some instances “mum” has to give up work to spend up to six months to two years while the child receives treatment.

“In and out of hospital for radiotherapy, chemo and blood transfusions. She has no income, and probably other children at home to support, feed, and get to school along with rent, bills and transport.”

The Director while commending the show which is being produced by Anna Adamira, explained that those children who have lost a parent to cancer, their lives are also forever changed or compromised by that death.

“Financial support, counselling, additional education- even professional courses, advocacy and guidance are needed, all supported by the funds raised from this show,” she said.

She explained that the Society is a Charitable Trust which raises 97 per cent of its own budget through constant fund-raising.

“This takes a lot of time and effort, but fund-raising is vital. Imagine a child suffering from leukaemia, lymphoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, neuroblastoma, Wilms tumour of the kidney, liver cancer, brain cancer, osteosarcoma, retinoblastoma – these are the most common paediatric cancers. There is nothing so tragic. And we seem so helpless. And only money can help, but the money has to be raised,” she said. (JH)

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