Abistina

Abistina is a 16-year old super smart teenager with a huge personality from the Southern part of Tanzania. In November 2021 her left eye began to swell so her mother took her to the nearby hospital. Following 8 days of antibiotic treatment her eye was no better. Her mother decided to bring her to the regional hospital 3 hours away for a second opinion. There she was reviewed and the doctors were rightly concerned that Abistina might have signs of cancer. They sent her a further 2 hours away from her home, to the Regional Referral hospital in Mbeya, MZRH. (MZRH is thankfully one of our NCCN* partner centres with access to all available child cancer services). The doctors took a biopsy and sent it to the NCCN hub where a diagnosis of cancer (rhabdomyosarcoma) was confirmed. In February 2022 Abistina and her mother agreed for the local doctors to remove her diseased eye. Following this it was decided that the remainder of her treatment should be undertaken in Dar es Salaam at MNH – 15 hours away by
bus.

Mama Abistina is a sensible woman and had understood and agreed with the treatment so far (including the removal of her child’s precious eye). But Dar es Salaam was a lifetime away; she had no savings to her name; it all sounded utterly impossible and terrifying. She also had a little baby whom she was still breastfeeding. It was too much to manage and she despaired there was no option but to watch her first born die.

Thankfully the local doctors had a different opinion as knew of the TLM supports available and reassured Mama Abistina that everything would be okay. TLM paid for travel costs, chemotherapy, health insurance, hostel and nutrition supplements. MNH cover all the hospital costs. And her baby was welcome to stay with Abistina. It seemed too good to be true to Mama Abistina – but she began to hope again.

And so in February the little family took the long journey to MNH. Abistina needed chemotherapy and radiotherapy for over 6 months. She was incredibly strong and brave and so much of her treatment was possible from the TLM Ujasiri ( ‘Brave’) hostel. There she attended the daily TLM school program and her mother joined the skills class. Mama Abistina had never worked a sewing machine before but
she was determined to master it. She worked tirelessly with Prisca, the TLM skills teacher, and learnt to make more than 20 different items. No parent has ever been more committed to skills training.

Abistina became the Ujasiri spokes-child confidently public speaking on behalf of the community welcoming any visitors. On September 24th this little family of mighty girls was discharged home. Abistina is not only in complete remission but her stay at MNH did not delay her studies and she continues her Standard 6
schooling without missing a moment. She’s hoping to come back to MNH one day to train as a nurse.

And TLM had a special gift for Mama Abistina – for all her
incredible efforts we couldn’t let her leave without providing her
the sewing machine she has mastered and needs to set up her
new business.
It’s always an incredible moment when a child goes home in
remission. It’s a rare and extra-special feeling when, despite the
trauma of the cancer diagnosis, TLM play a small role to make a
lasting positive impact on the entire family.
Together we can!
*NCCN = National Children’s Cancer Network

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