Around 160,000 children are estimated to be diagnosed with cancer annually throughout the world. In the U.S., 80 percent of children with cancer will survive! However, most of the world’s children have a very limited opportunity for diagnosis or treatment. An estimated 29,000 children per year are diagnosed with cancer in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2007, Baylor College of Medicine, the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative and Texas Children’s Hospital sent the first ever pediatric cancer specialist to Botswana through a partnership with the Botswana Ministry of Health. A country of 2.2 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, Botswana is about the size of Texas. Over the last eight years, because of the Baylor and Texas Children’s program, Batswana children have had the opportunity to be treated for cancer at Princess Marina Hospital, in the capital of Gaborone, which is the only hospital for children with cancer in Botswana.
On Wednesday, Sept. 23, we celebrated these pediatric cancer patients with a superhero themed party in Botswana at the Baylor Bristol-Myers Squibb Phatismong Adolescent Centre. Thirty-seven Batswana children, which included cancer survivors and on-therapy patients, were celebrated as superheroes with a party in their honor. The children were given a T-shirt with a “Botswana Kids Fighting Cancer” logo and parents, donors and staff were given gold ribbons to pin on their shirts. To our knowledge, this is the first event in Botswana to specifically celebrate childhood cancer survivors. Our superheroes had a chance to feast on delicious brunch food, have their faces painted, participate in a jam session, add their handprint to a collage, play in a soft play area and pose in a superhero-themed photo booth. Fallen superheroes were honored with a moment of silence and a bubble blessing.
The party was the vision of our project manager/care coordinator, Amanda Slone, and was accomplished due to the determination of numerous volunteers and donations from local charities and businesses. While celebrating the superheroes was the focus of the event, we also hoped to raise awareness that some children in Botswana do have cancer and there is hope as they can get diagnosed, treated and survive! These children truly embody the anonymous quote that “sometimes, real superheroes live in the hearts of small children fighting big battles.”