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With very little cancer prevention and early detection access, women in the developing world face high rates of mortality from advanced stage breast cancer. This is especially true for many women without even basic health care in the poorer communities of Africa, for mothers like Adwoa.
Soft spoken and calm, Adwoa Serwaa seems strong but pain registers deep in her eyes. Thirty-four years old, she is a single mother in Ghana with three children ages fifteen, thirteen and ten. Her luck has been hard.
Three years ago, a passing car hit and killed her husband. Since the accident, she has struggled to feed her family, taking work as a seamstress whenever and wherever she could find it.
Adwoa had little awareness of breast cancer, and when she noticed that one of her breasts was changing, she did not understand the significance of the symptoms. And the burden of supporting her children alone made it impossible to find time or money for a doctor. Finally the pain forced her to seek help. She was referred to Peace and Love Hospital in Kumasi, Ghana, a recipient of AmeriCares donations through its partnership with the U.S.-based National Cancer Coalition (NCC).
The mammogram and biopsy revealed stage 4 cancer – which means that the disease had spread throughout her body. Hospital counselors immediately provided the education and emotional support to guide her through the confusion and fear after the diagnosis. Obviously, she had no money to pay for the vital chemotherapy, but because of donations from NCC and AmeriCares, she receives her chemotherapy without charge.
Adwoa is receiving her chemotherapy treatments and many of the other required supporting therapies for the harsh symptoms and side effects. She has experienced a tremendous improvement, with a significant tumor reduction.
She faces many problems while dealing with her life-threatening illness. She worries about leaving her children back home by themselves when she comes to the hospital. Now she has no money and her rent is due. To feed the children, her mother collects food from the village families. Transportation money to get to the hospital is collected as well. A friend has stepped up to help with her children’s school expenses.
But somehow she stays upbeat – her strength is admirable. As she collects her donated granisetron for severe nausea and other support medicines from the hospital pharmacy, Adwoa is grateful to have found a caring institution dedicated to restoring her health and returning her to her children. She is among friends.
AmeriCares and NCC have provided large quantities of chemotherapy and related drugs and essential medications to public hospitals across Ghana that treat people without access to critical care. As Adwoa has discovered, these donations provide life-saving and life-enhancing cancer-related treatments never before available to many people in Ghana.