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News24.com | 5-year-old boy fights cancer, mother fights medical aid

Pretoria – When he’s all grown up, he doesn’t want to wash his hands as often as he has to now in order to fight off germs, says a 5-year-old boy who is battling cancer. 

And he doesn’t want to go back to hospital, he added.

His mother just wants to be able to get up one day without the fear that her child might not have long to live. The threat of the dreaded disease is growing by the day, while she and her husband are battling to get their medical aid to pay, Netwerk24 reported.

“I think the fear will always be there. When he sneezes, my heart stops,” she said.  

She knows that everyone on earth is on borrowed time. In the case of her youngest child, however, that is a reality. The boy taps his mother on her shoulder. “Can I please go play outside again?”

He has been house-bound or in hospital for most of his five years.

The child has been diagnosed with cancer twice in four years. A bone marrow transplant will improve his chances of survival, if only the medical aid would pay for the procedure, which will cost more than R700 000.

He was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2013 when he was just a year and eight months old and he had to undergo intense chemotherapy.

At times, the boy, who had Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, was in hospital for weeks on end.

Health24: Leukaemia

He got through the chemo like “a warrior”, his proud mom said. By December 2013 he was in remission – and it stayed like that for 36 months.

On January 10 this year he went to the oncologist for a follow-up consultation. Everything was okay. Two days later the oncologist phoned to say the boy had to come back for a bone marrow aspiration.

The cancer was back.

More intense chemo followed, with the medical aid covering most of it. However, because the cancer is in remission again, the boy needs a bone marrow transplant to prevent it from coming back. 

“The oncologist said his chances of survival when he first got AML were 6/10. The second time around it had dropped to 3/10. If he gets cancer again, his chances will be just 1 in 10 to survive. A bone marrow transplant will improve his chances.”

100% match

That’s when a miracle happened. The South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) found a donor who was a 100% match.

Now the medical aid won’t pay because the boy has had a relapse and the donor isn’t a direct family member. 

“I don’t understand it. He had a relapse with chemo, not with a bone marrow transplant. And what difference does it make if the donor isn’t a family member?”

She had already contacted the Department of Health.

“I am trying to get the [health] minister to change the laws and regulations, because the medical aid rules do not make sense. I am fighting for my child,” she said.

The boy wipes his hands with a disinfectant cloth before he says, “Actually, I’m healthy now. Right, mom?”