When Portia Keta from Tladi in Soweto, in 2020 noticed that his 17-year-old son was getting lazier, always tired with no appetite and less energy, she took him to the hospital. That was when they found out that he had no red blood cells. He was admitted for a blood transfusion and later diagnosed with leukaemia.
“My first reaction was, not again and not with my son”, said Keta who is a cancer survivor herself. She was determined to fight for his son’s health because she believed that he had his whole life ahead of him, but unfortunately, he died two months later. “There was no time to even seek second opinion, everything was rushed, from his diagnosis he had to go through to chemotherapy”, explained Keta.
In all this, Keta regards her son as a strong young man, who tried to get information to understand what was wrong with him and who was ready to fight.
“If I knew then what I know now, I would have picked up early that there was something wrong with my son”, said Keta. She believes that when parents pay attention to their kids and their patterns, then it becomes easier to notice if something is wrong.
Ponatshego Thage, a father from Soweto, who also lost his child due to cancer, noticed that their then nine months old child was not well. He thought it was just flu that they got from the day care. They took her to the doctor, who diagnosed her with bronchitis and pneumonia, which they kept treating with no improvement in the child’s health. The cancer diagnostic came when she was one year two months old, and she passed away in May 2021 when she was five years old.
“As parents we saw the child gaining weight, and we were happy thinking it’s a good sign not knowing that actually it was swelling” said Thage. He said that is when they found out that their child was on stage four of kidney failure due to cancer and had to start with dialysis. Thage also plead with fathers to support the mothers and their kids when going through such times
Both Keta and Thage together with other survivors then formed an organisation helping to raise awareness on child cancer among black families and connecting parents whose children have been diagnosed with the terminal illness to support organizations.
Kgothatsa-Botshelo foundation in Soweto is raising awareness to the community by hosting seminars, where they share their experiences with childhood Cancer, aimed to reduce mortality.