Andre*, Aged 3, Cameroon

After standing up for three-year-old Andre’s health in the face of his cancer diagnosis, his mother Jeanne* was left on her own with her four children.

Learn more about how Jeanne navigated this difficult time and Andre’s diagnosis as well as how World Child Cancer got involved.

Andre’s* mother, Jeanne*, and her husband were blessed with four children, out of whom Andre was the third. Before they died, Jeanne’s parents taught her how to weave baskets, which is something she continues to do to this day to support her family. 

When Andre was about 2 years old, he developed a strange mark in his eye. Whenever he was inside the house and his mother walked in, she would think that his eye would shine like that of a cat when he turned his face to her. In the next six months, a white spot continued to grow in Andre’s eye and, as a consequence, Jeanne consulted the Mboppi Baptist Hospital Douala (MBHD) eye clinic. They suspected Retinoblastoma immediately. Andre’s mother decided to seek advice from another eye clinic where she got the same news. When Jeanne returned home and told her husband the diagnosis for a second time, he accused Jeanne’s family of witchcraft and for having caused this. He walked out of the house, leaving Jeanne, Andre and his siblings on their own. This instantly threw Jeanne and her children into a completely new living situation.

Jeanne had to continue supporting her children by herself. She went to a neighbour and begged her to let her stay there until she could find an affordable place. Time passed by and as Andre turned three, Jeanne reached out to her siblings who provided some limited financial support for her and her children. They also encouraged her to travel to Bafoussam instead of following the referral to the Mboppi Baptist Hospital in Douala. In Bafoussam, Andre was referred to the Mbingo Baptist Hospital where he underwent an ultrasound scan and an examination under anaesthesia.

The diagnosis was confirmed a third time; it was clear that Andre needed treatment. But Jeanne had no money, and her siblings could not offer any more financial support.

If it had depended on my family and me, I would have ended at the diagnosis.

Luckily, this was where World Child Cancer could support. “When Andre was asked to continue treatment at MBHD, chemotherapy was started there at no cost [to me],” Jeanne recalls.

My son received free treatment, money to support his feeding and transportation, and milk. I lost my smile, but your program brought it back.

Jeanne followed all the instructions given to her rigorously. She gave Andre the milk exactly as she had been advised to and did not miss any follow-up visits. Thankfully, Andre’s white blood cells were never too low, so his chemo never had to be postponed. In between hospital visits, his mother would weave baskets and take her other children to the market.  

Jeanne has been incredibly courageous in the face of a Retinblastoma diagnosis for her son – continuing to support her children to the best of her ability whilst managing various incredibly difficult circumstances. Her message for parents of children who battle Retinoblastoma is to follow her steps and to always take and enact the advice of the hospital team. 

Now, Andre excitedly talks about school which he started last September. His mother prays that he will take his studies seriously and get a good job in futureIn late January 2023, he had his eye removed and in April 2023, he completed chemotherapy. While he does not have a prosthesis yet, Jeanne is certain that “the necessary has been done, saving his life.

If I imagine that my child has gone through chemotherapy and all the treatments I saw your programme give to my child... I find it unbelievable.”

Jeanne says her focus for now is to make sure that her children have enough food to eat. Someday, they might purchase a prosthesis for Andre, but for now, the family are very grateful to have him alive and healthy.

*Names changed to protect identities

Hearing the news that your child has cancer is devastating. With your help, World Child Cancer is able to provide financial and emotional support to children and their families at diagnosis and beyond, to limit the damage cancer causes.

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