Children undergoing treatment for cancer in the Oncology ward at Tygerberg Children's Hospital have been given a boost with the donation of a PlayStation entertainment system. This will bring some fun and relief to the children, who often have to stay in the ward for months.
"It's one way of making the journey easier. We want the children to have fun and take a break. We also want to take some of the pressure off the mothers and caregivers, who often stay over with their children in the ward," said Anthea-Lynn Lewis of Tough Living with Cancer (TLC), a support service which forms part of the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA).
CANSA donated the Playstation systems to several childhood oncology wards in South Africa.
"I'm very excited about the PlayStation. It's fun and it makes me feel happier," said 12-year-old Kyle Adams from Paarl, who has been helping the younger patients to get to grips with the games.
Kyle was diagnosed in May with osteosarcoma, a cancer that develops in the bone, and recently had his left leg amputated. Kyle has been a patient in the oncology ward for the past few months as he receives chemotherapy. Despite all he has gone through, he remains positive.
"My message to other children with cancer is 'Never give up'. He says he's determined to live a very active life.
Kyle's mother, Samantha Adams, who has slept next to Kyle in the ward every night for the past couple of months, says it has been very difficult at times.
"It drains you emotionally when your child is struggling and suffering. But Kyle has been amazing. He's so brave and positive, and the treatment he has been receiving here has been wonderful."
Staff from TLC come to the wards twice a week to play with the children and to make crafts with the mothers and caregivers. They also take the children on outings if they are well enough.
Tygerberg Children's Hospital is well known for its excellent treatment of childhood cancer.
"We have a very good research department, with innovative novel therapies in our paediatric oncology programme, which has been up and running since 1983," says Professor Mariana Kruger, Executive Head of Paediatrics at Tyberberg Children's Hospital and the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and a specialist in childhood cancer.
Children receive the utmost care at the hospital. Kruger said childhood cancer could be cured in up to 80% of children if detected early. She is passionate about raising awareness about childhood cancer. September has been recognised as International Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Kruger said every child with childhood cancer had a right to treatment. But many children are not being diagnosed in South Africa.
"We diagnose 700 to 800 children a year in South Africa. But it should be 1,500. Many children die long before they reach us. Others come to the hospital too late, when the cancer is already in an advanced stage.'
Kruger has called on parents and caregivers to look out for any warning signs of childhood cancer. These include continued, unexplained weight loss; headaches, often with vomiting; increased swelling or pain in the bones, joints, back and legs; a lump in the abdomen, neck, chest, pelvis or armpits; constant infections or tiredness with noticeable paleness. Eye or vision changes should also prompt concern.
Kruger said it was heartening for doctors and staff at the hospital when they are able to successfully treat children.
Long-term survivors of cancer, who have been treated for cancer at the Tygerberg Children Hospital, often come back to see the doctors and nurses at the ward to express their gratitude.
The Tygerberg Children's Hospital Trust raises life-saving funds to help children in its care. For more information, contact Malcolm Kling at 083 987 5178 or 0219389538 . For more information, go to: http://www.tch-trust.org.za/ For donations in kind, such as your time, toys and books for children, please call Laticia Pienaar at 021 938 5454.
Photo: Young patients in the oncology ward, together with volunteer, Liezel Newman and Anthea-Lynn Lewis of Tough Living with Cancer (TLC), a support service which forms part of the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA).