I have just finished reading a few articles on a young cancer patient who got his angel wings on New Year’s Day, and I am ANGRY!!!
I am ANGRY that young Junaid Arendse from Mitchells Plain, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma in 2014 passed away at the tender young age of 8, even though he outlived his doctor’s predictions – in June 2015 the doctors gave him 3 months to live.
I am ANGRY that one of our Little Fighters passed away on 12 January before we even had time to register him and offer any help.
I am ANGRY that two more families have to deal with the loss of a young child to a disease that is devastating in so many ways.
I am ANGRY that in other countries the childhood cancer survival rate is between 65% and 98% yet in South Africa the overall survival was calculated to be a mere 52.1%.
I am ANGRY that here at the Little Fighters Cancer Trust, we are not strangers to death from Childhood Cancer… we see it too often every year!
“Child loss is not an event;
It is an indescribable journey of survival”
~ Author Unknown ~
Junaid’s only hope was Topotecan, an expensive anti-cancer drug treatment not available in state hospitals. Thanks to Friends, Family and various donations from his school, Hazeldene Primary, Cape Times readers, and various high-profile locals, including mayor Patricia de Lille, comedians Kurt Schoonraad, Marc Lottering, Stuart Taylor and Nik Rabinowitz, sufficient funds were raised for the treatment, and in September 2015, test results showed that the cancer had been eradicated from his upper body.
Unfortunately, the cancer returned in February 2017, and doctors once again gave Junaid mere weeks to live. The brave young lad’s enormous courage attracted the attention of and touched the hearts of many well-wishers, including including Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
Unfortunately despite everything possible being done for him in the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Junaid’s health deteriorated and he earned his angel wings on 1 January 2018.
Junaid’s funeral was attended by around 300 mourners, including some of the afore-mentioned well-known personalities. Various speakers described Junaid as having fought his condition with amazing resilience, as polite, outgoing, pleasant and always with a positive outlook on life.
Minister Sisulu (whose husband had died of cancer within 3 months of diagnosis), and de Lille each gave heartbreaking tributes:
Sisulu said after he husband had died, “the trauma the family went through in three short months heightened my sensitivity to cancer”.
Sisulu said she was touched by a front-page article in the Cape Times of this “beautiful and brave” little boy so she contacted his family and arranged for a meeting.
“I desperately wanted to give this little boy a chance at survival,” she said, after she had sessions with his doctor and social workers. Sisulu said she firmly believed that they could push back the inevitable.
“The more I read on childhood cancer the more I realised we have a looming crisis in Africa with cancer killing more people now than HIV and Aids, the biggest problem being that most cancers are discovered too late to cure.
“My time with him was immeasurably fulfilling. He was the epitome of love and I treasure all the time I had especially when he came for weekends,” Sisulu said.
“I don’t remember him complaining about his ailment, nor did he have any sense of victimhood. ‘Saintly’ is a word that comes to mind about him. Junaid fought his cause – his right to life – without making the rest of us feel guilty; instead he loved us despite the fact that we had that one privilege that he did not have – the privilege of life.”
Patricia de Lille was overcome with grief and had to be ushered off the stage during her tribute at the emotional but celebratory funeral service, saying:
“Almost every second week, we hear of someone who died of cancer. Cancer is becoming a faster killer than any other illness. Junaid’s short life was taken away so cruelly.”
De Lille told the mourners she would keep a drawing Junaid did as a reminder of “this brave young man. I will never forget him”.
Thank you for supporting the Arendse family but I am still ANGRY because there are hundreds if not thousands of other Children with cancer throughout South Africa at any given time and THE SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT IS FAILING THEM!!!!
I am ANGRY because nothing is being done to help these Childhood Cancer affected Families!
I am ANGRY because the cancer treatment is SO EXPENSIVE and not available at government hospitals, which means it is beyond the reach of MOST Children with Cancer.
I am ANGRY because even at the government hospitals there are often shortages of the most basic and necessary Cancer Medications!!!
I am ANGRY because there is such little information out there about Childhood Cancer – ask the general public about Childhood Cancer and most of them will say Cancer is an Old Person’s Disease!!
I am ANGRY because yes, Childhood Cancer is the leading cause of death in children in South Africa yet there are still so many medical staff, including doctors, especially in the rural areas, who HAVE NO CLUE what the Warning Signs of Childhood Cancer are!!
I am ANGRY because the overall survival rates for children in South Africa are lower than in developed countries – many children present with advanced disease because there is no program to educate the public about the Warning Signs of Childhood Cancer so that parents can look out for them and get their children to the doctor more quickly if they notice any of them – EARLY DETECTION SAVES LIVES!!!
I am ANGRY because while you mourn the loss of one Child with Cancer, this organisation mourns the loss of TOO MANY Children with Cancer every year – we have already had our first death this year…
I am ANGRY because even though Childhood Cancer has been brought to your attention – chances are that you will DO NOTHING about it to help save all the other Children with Cancer!!!
And lastly I am ANGRY because we do not want pretty speeches and giftings and photo ops – we want NO MORE FUNERALS!!!