On mission to offer ‘financial therapy’ to cancer patients

By Jasmine Atieno
Tuesday, June 8th, 2021 00:00 | 4 mins read
Jimia Abdul Yusuf celebrating Baby Firoz last day of chemotherapy after three years of treatment. Right: Jimia Abdul Yusuf, a professional insurance officer, but her passion is in helping cancer victims. Photo/PD/JASMINE ATIENO

Jasmine Atieno @sparkleMine

Cancer is not only among the worst possible diseases to get because of the grievous toll it has on its victims’ health, but also because of the treatment costs patients incur.

Many cancer patients have lost their lives while struggling to raise the huge amounts required for treatment. All pray for a miracle and hope for a Godly intervention if they are to battle this monster.

And 34-year-old Jimia Abdul Yusuf has come to be a gateway to these kinds of miracles for many cancer victims. 

Professionally, she is an insurance officer working for a private firm based in Mombasa dealing in motor trade. But her other calling is to fight for cancer victims. This started seven years ago after her nephew was diagnosed with leukemia

Mobiliser is born

“At that time, I was one week recovering from a caesarian section. I couldn’t do much in terms of family meetings and all that it entails in planning a harambee.

Also, I was using an analogue phone and could not access social media. I would wait for my sister to come home from work in the evening, borrow her phone and log in to Facebook, and appeal to my friends as he was referred abroad for a bone-marrow transplant.

At times, he would need blood and I used to request for donors through my Facebook account, which had less than 50 friends. I had no proof if it was actually helping or not.

Unfortunately he succumbed to cancer before the family could reach the targeted amount,” shares the wife and mother of two. 

A few months later, Jimia’s daughter was admitted in hospital and next to her ward bed was a child, judging from her size barely a month old, crying profusely.

She was to learn later from the child’s mother that she was in fact 10 months old, and with three holes in her heart, which had caused her health to deteriorate.

Having experienced how hard this can be on the immediate family, she knew she had to help in whichever way.  

“The story moved me to tears. She was being referred to go abroad for corrective surgery as even the Kenyatta hospital couldn’t perform the surgery as they said she was underweight (1.2 kilogrammes at 10 months of age).

They came from a rural area in Kwale. I promised the mother I would try to assist using social media.

So, I started off by getting an Mpesa paybill number then posting on Facebook. My Facebook numbers kept rising and more joined the worthy cause to raise the funds.

That’s how the child went to India and a surgery was done to close one hole in the heart and the other was to be closed at a later stage when she gained 10 kilogrammes.

With that one surgery, the child started gaining weight. It was a relief to the family,” shares Jimia.

In 2016, she saw another child on Facebook almost her daughter’s age, who had leukemia and she remembered what her sister-in-law had gone through. Her nephew had not made it, but this was an opportunity to help someone else and, especially by lifting the financial burden for another mother. 

So, she got the woman’s contacts through Facebook, asked to be updated on the child’s condition via phone and she embarked on campaigning towards the medical appeal.

Other people joined the fundraising wagon and after three months, the mother had enough to take her son, Fadl, to India and start the initial treatment as the fundraising continued online.

Unfortunately, after one month of treatment, baby Fadl nicknamed Carda, succumbed to cancer, and was buried in India.

Taking off

“I had never met the mother or the little champ. She came back to the country alone.

Friendship and sisterhood started here even with other women who we met online while championing for the medical appeal. We talked of how cancer was becoming a disaster and the challenges many families are facing.

We started a WhatsApp group and used to make contributions in supporting other cancer cases we came across.

The need to create awareness in the communities crossed our minds. We decided to start an organisation that could help support in creating awareness on cancer and relieving the financial burden that comes with childhood cancer.

We decided to name the organisation after the late baby Fadl. That’s how Fadlcarda Leukemia Foundation was born,” she shares. 

To her, this is a calling, which involves connecting with families whose lives have been affected by childhood cancer.

It involves utilising social media in a huge way, especially since the organisation doesn’t have donor funding, and also to create cancer awareness in areas with less or no information about the disease while giving hope and reducing the financial burden.

The organisation has worked with Pathologists at Lancet Kenya under the leadership of Dr Ahmed Kalebi who believed in them even as a toddler organisation.

Their main support is through their medic, giving the right information in terms of what diagnosis entails and preventive measures that one can take.

She has also worked with other organisations such as Sunflower Global, Ghetto Achievers, Hope Raisers, House of Hope, Grandpa Records, Mombasa Cancer Centre, Al Yusra Restaurant, Ayisha Photography, CRK Flick photography among others.

“In my journey, I have learnt to be patient, to stay humble, strong and positive. I have learnt to appreciate every single day and the little that I have. I have learnt to stay focused to achieve the goal.

Most of all, I have learnt that no one ever fights alone in any battle,” says the warrior. Jimia’s dream is to have an accommodation centre, specifically for cancer children.

A place where they can feel at home away from home while receiving treatment in hospitals.

This is after seeing the challenges patients face when referred to Nairobi for treatment and have no place to stay, no relative to accommodate them and some have, but hostile relatives who don’t understand the challenges that come with treatment.