After I was diagnosed, nothing could convince
me that I was going to live. Nothing. I was actually…just lost. I was very sad because cancer, for me, is death. Common reactions upon learning you have CML,
a rare blood cancer. In Africa, many believe all cancers equal death. But today, CML is no death sentence. It’s a cancer that has turned from a fatal
disease to a chronic disease because
of the targeted therapies. Miraculous targeted drug therapies for CML arrived in 2001, and work incredibly well. A week after taking my medicine, everyone at home was like, “Okay, so you’re looking better than us!” (ha ha) I still didn’t believe until I saw that
I was moving…then I said, “this medicine is going to work.” I consider myself to be very lucky because I had good treatment in time, and that is
why I’m okay now. I can have normal life. Bahija, from Marrakech morocco. Wife, mother,
teacher, writer. She’s been living with CML for 14 years. Gershon, from Accra, Ghana. Contractor, husband, and father of 5, diagnosed 6 years ago. And Ferdinand, of Nairobi, Kenya. A 10-year survivor. He left a bank job to work full-time on his advocacy group. One of the thing I insist on this group, is inform inform inform. But informing and treating people across the vast continent of Africa is challenging. Africa has a unique disadvantage. Our patients live in outlying or rural areas, for them to get to the main center takes travel time we hear of two days, we’ve heard. And for them to get funds to get to the main center is quite a challenge and therefore patients have access to treatment but can’t necessarily reach the treatment. …The medical principal’s wife had CML… To tackle that problem and others, patient
advocates from all over Africa gather once a year this time in Marrakech, Morocco. They want others to know these essentials: CML does not discriminate.
It can affect can affect anybody in all walks of life It’s found everywhere in the world. Like most cancers, early diagnosis is critical.
And there are two important steps to save lives: Number one is access to medication. Number two is monitoring of the disease. Then, there’s the cost of the medication. I cannot afford $3,000 a month!
Even $500 a month I cannot afford it. Thankfully, an organization called The Max Foundation, which organizes the annual conference, helps provide the medications for free.
The drug that we help people get access to is donated by the companies. We manage that
distribution and make sure that we link the drugs to the patient.
African cancer patients face yet another daunting obstacle – stigma.
People think you bewitched. That is the biggest problem I’d like to thank The Max Foundation for this opportunity.
Hiding a disease only perpetuates myth…so these survivors encourage each other to openly share
their stories. Hey, how are you?
From Tunisia to Togo, Nigeria to Uganda, the advocates return home energized and empowered…ready to lobby for more support. And my vision is to also see more engagement from the government side. And we are willing to meet to meet the governments as partners and sit at the table and find a way forward for everyone. So if I am able to inform my patients about best practices about CML, then it means they are able to fight the cancer better.” And the most important thing in my life that I become the hope of other people. People need to know there is hope. So if we unite and have a collective voice in Africa, we can make the change together.