KUCHING: Drawing, watching cartoons and taking his remote-controlled toy car out for a ride are some of young Saifudin’s favourite pastime activities.
Saifudin is a childhood cancer relapse patient who was first diagnosed with Pre-B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (Pre-B ALL) when he was only six years old in 2019.
The Sarawak Children’s Cancer Society (SCCS) explained that early signs like a prolonged fever, bruises on certain parts of his body and his pale complexion led to Saifudin’s first cancer diagnosis.
Through the society’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month Stories, Saifudin’s mother shared about how the first time she noticed those changes in his body, she did not know those were early symptoms of cancer.
She admitted that back then she did not have much medical knowledge and there was no thermometer at home for her to measure Saifudin’s body temperature.
“He was having a high fever and his condition was deteriorating, so I decided to bring him to the nearest clinic in our hometown Betong for a check-up.
“Upon his first diagnosis, Saifudin and I had to temporarily move to Kuching to receive treatment in Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) for him to get better.
“He successfully completed his treatment within a few months and diligently continued his follow-up care back in Betong,” she said.
Three years later in 2022, she said the doctors detected warning signs of relapse through Saifudin’s blood test results in one of his scheduled follow-ups in Betong Hospital.
He was immediately referred to the Sri Aman Hospital before being transferred to SGH for further scans, tests and treatments.
“The most challenging part for Saifudin during his cancer-fighting journey is his loss of appetite. He is always tired and barely has energy because he does not have the appetite to eat.
“Due to his active treatment, his emotions are constantly changing.
“Seeing him in his mood swings is tough for me because I do not know what I can do to make him feel more comfortable, but I know that as a parent caring for him, I need to control my own emotions so I can be strong for him,” she said.
Saifudin has braved seven cycles of chemotherapy and is currently undergoing treatment to get better.
Saifudin’s mother disclosed that after her husband passed away, she has been left to care for their three children as the only breadwinner for the family.
When she is caring for Saifudin, she has to put her job on hold and leave her other children under the care of her father at their village.
“Just thinking about it gives me a lot of anxiety, but I know that every child deserves a chance in life.
“No matter how difficult this journey is, we need to continue providing our children with hope that this is just another obstacle in life to overcome.
“As a mother, there is nothing I would not do to give my child the best that I can. It is this hope and mindset that gives me the courage to continue fighting,” she said.
With most of their families and support system based in Betong, Saifudin and his mother currently find shelter at SCCS’s halfway home in Kuching.
Saifudin’s mother said since his first treatment, the society has done a lot to help them and other families who are going through a similar journey.
The society provides families with free accommodation, food, and transportation to and from the hospital for treatment.
“I am able to share my problems, stress, and worries with them – this helps me calm down emotionally knowing that I am not alone in this journey.
“Most importantly, understanding that I need to leave my job to care for Saifudin, the society has been providing us with financial support that helps to reduce our family’s financial burden.
“Our family is forever grateful and thankful to SCCS for giving us all these much-needed care and support,” she said.
Saifudin’s mother said fighting cancer is a tough battle but fighting together can make it a little easier to bear.
‘’To all the parents out there who are going through the same journey, we need to stay strong and be resilient in the face of uncertainties and challenges when caring for our unwell child.
“Pray for healing and the strength to keep fighting, know that there will be light at the end of each tunnel,” she said.