HAVING lost her eldest child to a rare type of cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), Shelly Balkarran is planning to do everything in her power to raise awareness about the rare disease, as well as create a safe haven and foundation for young children battling cancer and other deadly diseases across the country.
Her 16-year-old daughter, Shaniece Nanhoe, succumbed to the disease on January 4, 2021; she was diagnosed in June 2019. The woman told the Guyana Chronicle that while she is focused on laying her daughter to rest, she is also working on ideas to help better inform people about situations similar to the one her family experienced.
“My main agenda is to have a programme where parents are [encouraged] to take their children to have routine checkups…there must be a programme to look for these types of cancers that could actually take over your child’s life in just a few months,” she said.
The rare type of cancer is formed in the soft tissue of the body, specifically skeletal muscle tissue, or sometimes in hollow organs such as the head, bladder, or uterus. The teenager had a facial tumor and had undergone over a dozen cycles of chemotherapy. By the time her doctors considered radiation therapy, the facial tumor had worsened and her doctors informed her that the treatment would only make matters worse. Balkarran noted that she is hoping to partner with a few health professionals to also conduct research to find answers to the questions she had about her daughter’s illness.
Balkarran added that while she is mourning the loss of her child, she is taking a page out of her daughter’s book to be brave and to start a foundation or programme in her name to help other children.
“She was so brave, she made pain look so easy, she made pain look like when you have a jar of cookies in your hand and you’re so excited and I want her name to live on. I believe because of her we can help so many other kids.”
Balkarran also believes that there are not enough foundations and programmes in Guyana that offer assistance to parents who have children diagnosed with cancer or other diseases.
“I feel as though there are not enough support systems when it comes to kids who have cancer. I don’t hear much about it, we hear about women and breast cancer. I’m thinking of the kids, they are innocent, they need some sort of support.”
She contended that the foundation will not only be about finding treatments and potential cures to deadly diseases but also about the child’s or children’s mental health and making their final wishes come through.
“This will not just be about getting them help from the hospitals; this will also help to make their dreams come through.”