Mirabel*, Aged 2, Cameroon

Two-and-a-half-year-old Mirabel * lives in Cameroon with her family and was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer.

Find out more about how Mirabel’s family learned about her diagnosis, how World Child Cancer supports them and where they are now. 

Yayoh Jean* is a 34-year-old widow with 4 children, with Mirabel* being the last one and the only girl in the family. Jean, Mirabel and her siblings lived in a rural community in the Northwest Region of Cameroon where farming was the main occupation until a sociopolitical crisis that resulted in armed conflicts forced the family to move internally within Cameroon. Jean came to Douala to live with her brother Joseph and his family of four. Joseph is a taxi driver, and his wife is a housekeeper. Together they helped Jean get a housekeeping job in the city.  

When Mirabel was 18 months old, Jean noticed that her right eye would occasionally shine like that of a cat upon turning her head to the side, but when Jean would look at the eye directly, it would not be obvious. “I thought this was her own star,” she said, and they joked about it at home. The “star” also increased in size to a point and became a growing white spot in the black part of that eye. 

Then, Mirabel’s brother became ill and received treatment at Baptist Hospital Mutengene (BHM). During one of his visits, he saw a poster on the wall with headshot photos of preschool children, and the eye in one of the photos was just like Mirabel’s. He went closer. Out of all the words in the world, it had the word “cancer” on it. When Miraebl’s brother got home, he shared the shocking news about the poster. His next appointment was in one week and he took Mirabel along, then two and a half years old. 

Out of all the words in the world, the poster that Mirabel's brother saw had the word "cancer" on it.
Mirabel's brother's memories

At BHM, Mirabel’s brother was told that his suspicion was right, and they were referred to consult the ophthalmologist at Mboppi Baptist Hospital Douala (MBHD) without delay. At first, there was simply no money to start a consultation. Joseph had been ill for months and only Jean and her sister-in-law sustained Mirabel and her siblings. Then, within one week, they gathered enough money to take Mirabel to the ophthalmologist at MBHD. The ophthalmologist did an Examination under anaesthesia (EUA) alongside an ultrasound scan and confirmed the diagnosis. 

The ophthalmologist explained the disease and the treatment that the eye clinic and the children’s cancer unit offered to Jean. She recalls that the doctor was genuinely nice and that she appreciated how he talked to her even though she just “sat there finished.” The doctor referred the family to the children’s cancer service. 

Jean says that during the counselling session, she knew in her heart that her child would die, as the family struggled to even get their daily bread. However, in the end, Jean ended up being surprised beyond words. “Mirabel was given free treatment, food and transport money, milk, a colouring book with colouring pencils, toys and also found good relations.”

I thank the sponsors a lot; there is much more than just a thank you in my heart. They did so much for me that I can never forget.

Jean further explains that the support they received at Mirabel’s treatment centre also helped her to accept her daughter’s diagnosis. “I do not see anything that will disturb her future because of one eye; she herself will choose what she likes to do in life,” she says. The family managed to get a ready-made, cheap prosthesis for Mirabel’s eye. Now, people no longer ask questions.  

If my child is a survivor, any child can survive.

Retinoblastoma is a difficult disease for anyone’s child to have. Yet, Jean is hopeful. “If my child is a survivor, any child can survive.” She encourages other parents not to feel stigmatized. “Follow-ups should not be missed because they are very important. You have to sacrifice in order to succeed.” 

*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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