Zoe stays strong on International Cancer Survivors Day

The first Sunday of June marks International Cancer Survivor’s Day, a day which celebrates all those that have bravely fought through as tough journey, young and old, every year on the first Sunday of June.

For five-year-old Zoe Holloway, leukaemia struck her when she was just two years old. It all started with a high temperature and exhibiting fever like symptoms on May 24 in 2015.

Cheerful 5 year old Zoe Holloway, a cancer survivor   Picture: SUPPLIED

Zoe’s mother, Bronwyn Holloway, recalls her child being diagnosed with a throat infection that persisted even after being treated twice by the family GP. Blood tests were done which resulted in a biopsy being conducted on June 3.

When the results came back in the afternoon I was shocked and thought this was a death sentence for my child. She was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL). When something like this comes to your home it’s different,” said Holloway.

She described it as a journey that she doesn’t regret and was able to use her strength to support other parents going through the same path.

Childhood Cancer Foundation South Africa (CHOC) in East London has a survivor’s group programme where they share positive messages with those newly diagnosed. CHOC also has an inspirational video which illustrates the support systems undertaken by them in support of families and patients affected:

I’m part of this programme because as parent you can either live through this experience or let it consume you. Through this we can try and make something beautiful out of a painful situation,” Holloway said.

She also is still a part of the support group that CHOC offers as a volunteer.

For playful and bubbly Zoe, she described cancer as “not nice”.

I missed my friends but they were able to come visit me on play-dates,” as walked away to jump on the trampoline.

Zoe said she wanted to be a doctor, a vet, a horse rider and a ballerina when she grows up although she still needs to go for “check ups and finger pricks” right now.

Bronwyn says that after rigorous treatment for over two years and a biopsy done in September 2017, Zoe has been given the all clear and is cancer free. She will still continue with check ups every six weeks for the next two years.

Holloway added that this journey has been an “eye-opener” and commends parents’ commitment to their children during this trying time- some even sacrificing their jobs for “no work, no pay”.

In Bob Marley’s words, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”

According to research conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), around 150 per million children worldwide are diagnosed with cancer before the age of 15.

Cancer is the uncontrollable growth of cells in the body often causing a growth or tumour, with the four most common cancers affecting 13-20 year olds such as:

  • There are two main groups of lymphoma, namely Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL) and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL). Children diagnosed with HL are often treated with combinations of chemotherapy and radiation. NHL however may require or complex treatment plan.

  • Brain tumours are the abnormal multiplication of cells in the brain in an uncontrollable way. These tumours are graded according to how fast they grow and the probabilities to which they may grow after treatment.

  • A sarcoma is a bone cancer that comes in two forms. Ewing Sarcoma causes a tumour to grow in the soft tissue around the bone or in the bones. Osteosarcoma begins in the cells that help make your bones grow. Both of these types of cancer are quite rare and affect large bones like the thigh and shin bones.

  • Leukaemia is cancer that goes through the whole body, affecting the blood and the bone marrow.

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