Cecilia Wanjiku, a 15-year-old cancer survivor sent out a heartfelt appeal to First Lady Margaret Kenyatta and detailed the worrying number of children and teenagers battling the disease in Kenya.
Speaking to Citizen TV's Victoria Rubadiri on October 3, the young girl read out a letter she had penned for the First Lady
"I know you are very passionate about children and that you started Beyond Zero. My plea to you, and mothers of the same heart, kindly visit Kenyatta National Hospital children and Oncology wards and you'll understand what cancer is doing to your children.
"Also, I really wish that we could meet so that I can share my vision on childhood and teenage cancer," her letter reads in part.
Cecilia embarked on her 2-year battle with cancer after being involved in an accident along Valley Road in Nairobi on her way to school.
Her father (Peter) explained that having sustained injuries in the chest, CT scans taken at Kenyatta National Hospital revealed that she had a growth in the same area that turned out to be cancerous.
This could not have come at a worse time for the young girl as she was just about to sit for her final exams.
"I was undergoing radiotherapy just before sitting for my KCPE. I used to read after radiotherapy session and that was challenging for me. I want to be a pediatric oncologist when I grow up," she narrated.
Cecilia's dad spoke candidly about her journey, "To me she is a fighter as it's not only cancer that she fought. There was a time she wanted to commit suicide because she was depressed and desperate. God has really found a way to provide for us," he confessed
After realising how costly her treatment would be, he took up any job that presented itself including vending water from a mkokoteni, just to manage the ballooning costs.
"I used to spend Ksh2,000 a day on chemotherapy," he revealed.
There has been a startling rise in cancer cases among children as highlighted by Cecilia, in her letter to the First Lady.
According to the National Cancer Institute, over 3,000 children die of cancer in Kenya each year.
Further, the institution revealed that 3,200 new cancer cases in children are recorded annually.
On August 1, 2019, cancer patients and carers took to the streets and called on the national government to declare the illness a "national disaster" and provide extra funding to combat it.
The State pledged to set up more chemotherapy and radiotherapy centres across the nation, but for many Kenyans, the treatment in the private sector is far too expensive.
It is estimated that 70-80% of patients diagnosed with cancer in Kenya are at advanced stages, with high rates of misdiagnosis and inadequate screening hindering early detection.
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