Monthly Archives: June 2017
Valentine Mckenzie is a 4 years old girl from Western Kenya who is suffering from rhabdomyosacrcoma, a cancer made up of cells that normally develop into skeletal muscles. She is the first born daughter of 22 year old Helen who also has an 11 month old son. Helen lives with her parents Felistus and Jared Omusaba in Shanda, Kakamega County. Around mid June 2015, Felistus noticed a swelling under her granddaughter’s left ear. She thought it was a bee sting but the swelling grew bigger as days past. Felistus decided to seek medical assistance a few days later at a nearby dispensary and was immediately directed to Kakamega General Hospital. Although the swelling on Valentine’s left side had increased, she was not in pain and was still playful. Due to financial constraints, it took Valentine’s family one month to raise funds for further diagnostic treatment at the Kakamega General Hospital where they were referred to Kenya’s 2nd largest referral hospital the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in Eldoret. Through the help of well wishers and a local MP, they managed to pay for scans and a biopsy which confirmed that she had early stage rhabdomyosarcoma also known as RMS.
About 7 weeks into the development of an embryo, cells called rhabdomyoblasts (which will eventually form skeletal muscles) begin to form. These are the cells that can develop into RMS. Because this is a cancer of embryonal cells, it is much more common in children, although it does sometimes occur in adults.
Valentine was immediately put on chemotherapy treatment to shrink the tumour before she could undergo surgery. By her second chemotherapy cycle, the tumour had significantly shrunk and her appetite increased. After 6 cycles of chemotherapy, Valentine was discharged from the hospital in December of 2016 but still had to attend weekly clinics. Her consequent surgery was scheduled for May 2017 which was paid for by NHIF. However when Felistus was notified by the doctors atMTRH that Valentine needed radiotherapy treatment in Nairobi, she was crest fallen as her family had already exhausted all their funds and could not afford the bus fare let alone 30 weeks of radiotherapy. Thanks to the partnership that Faraja has with MTRH, Valentine’s doctors contacted Faraja’s Patient Support Manager Phillip for review and possible financial assistance.
Through funds raised during the 2016 “Wigs and Turbans Gala Dinner”, Faraja is not only paying for radiotherapy treatment but also catering for accommodation costs in Nairobi for Valentine and her grandmother. Valentine is currently undergoing 6 weeks of radiotherapy, after which she will have to go back to MTRH for review and possibly, more chemotherapy.
These are just one of the many reasons Faraja Cancer Support Trust is excited to open a new outreach center at MTRH to expedite financial assistance cases and offer free complementary therapies to cancer patients and their care givers. By the time Felistus arrived in Nairobi she had high levels of stress and anxiety and hardly spoke. After talking to our counselors, she is better equipped for the ever winding journey of Valentine’s treatment. Valentine has also had art therapy sessions with our crafts for cure volunteers in a bid to get her to open up as the rigorous cancer treatment has left her sullen and withdrawn.
The Omusabi family can already see a marked improvement in Valentine and are looking forward to her speedy and full recovery. Felistus says she will patiently continue to support her granddaughter through all the treatment she needs and even afterwards to ensure full recovery. Her greatest desire is to see Valentine regain her health and go on to attend school and enjoying her childhood.
Editor’s Notes: Wigs and Turbans will host its annual gala dinner on the 4th of November 2017 at the Two Rivers Mall. All proceeds from the dinner go towards supporting children with cancer such as Valentine. To sponsor the event or participate, kindly contact Tibaga Gacheru on 0705 699 411 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Daisy Kinuthia
Picture courtesy of Sly D Photography