Editorial comment – Our children, our future

Robert Martin. Picture: WOWS KIDS FIJI

It is difficult having to live with cancer. It’s tough when a loved one is suffering. As we wrap up the month again, when we try and create awareness about childhood cancer, we are reminded about how fragile life is.

We are reminded about the importance of family support and especially the need for early detection, and how this should fit into the greater scheme of things in our lives.

In fact discovering you have a child with cancer can be a parent’s most traumatic experience.

We ran a story early this week about how 28-year-old mother Keresi Marama discovered her two-year-old son, Robert Martin, had cancer.

He was diagnosed in 2021 with a common form of cancer affecting the eye in children called retinoblastoma.

The news, Ms Marama said, was a huge blow for her family.

“I lost hope when I heard the news because when I heard cancer, I thought my son was not going to make it,” she said.

Her family noticed Robert was having difficulties seeing through his right eye when he was five months old.

“He would always cry and rub his eye when he was an infant so we took him to the hospital for an eye check-up. After seeing the doctors we had to wait for his x-ray, CT scan and MRI scan results for the doctors to tell if there was a tumour in his right eye,” she said.

“The results came out positive for retinoblastoma. The doctors told us the tumour was growing in his right retina had made his right eye blind.”

They were advised by doctors that their son had to have his eye removed to get rid of the tumour.

Ms Marama said the decision to remove Robert’s right eye was a tough one to make.

“It wasn’t easy for us as parents to allow the doctors to remove his right eye ball. But we felt that removing his right eye was the right decision to save Robert.”

So at the age of six months, Robert underwent surgery and had his eye removed by doctors at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital.

“He had his right eye removed when he was six-months-old and later had to complete chemotherapy for six months.

“I am so proud of how my son went through one year of pain and hardship but he still manages to have a smile on his face.”

Like parents and guardians affected by childhood cancer, they faced many challenges.

“It was challenging for both us as parents as we were unemployed but we were so grateful there were people who helped us along the way.”

This is where organisations such as Walk On Walk Strong (WOWS) Kids Fiji come in.

They provide assistance and support for such families, and continue to be a reassuring presence out there in the public domain.

Then there are the any supporters and donors who work behind the scenes. They make things happen for WOWS and subsequently for affected children.

As we get to the end of the month, we are reminded again about the importance of early detection, especially when it comes to illnesses such as cancer.

That’s where the difference could lie in the end. Then there is the support base and constant reassurance.

Our challenge continues to be on creating awareness of symptoms and what should be done when they develop.

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