A Mother’s Hope For Her Son To Be Cancer Free


A few months after Filipe Baleitavuki was born, his mother Vinaina Tadulala noticed that his pupil- the centre of the iris- was dilated.
Remembering the traumatic experience, Mrs Tadulala shared that after a few months, one afternoon she noticed that his eye swelled up but was not alarmed as the swelling disappeared after sometime.
“When it swelled up for the second time, I knew something was wrong, so I took him to the doctor. Initially, the doctor prescribed eye drops to alleviate the redness. It took four to six months for the treatment to be completed.”
“When Filipe was two years old, I can still vividly recall a very windy afternoon in 2012. He complained that his right eye was painful and when I looked at it his eyeball was bloody red and nearly popped out.”
That same evening, shared Mrs Tadulala, as she was concerned, they rushed Filipe to the Colonial War Memorial (CWM) Hospital Children’s Emergency unit.
She pleaded with the doctors if they could at least examine his eye instead of prescribing eye drops or any other medication.
“I told them my son does not need any other eye drops and requested them to scan his eye to determine what’s causing the problem. We were scheduled for a CT scan the following Monday, so Filipe was advised not to eat, drink, or take anything,” the emotional mother relayed.
“He was given medication before the CT scan, so the advice given to us by the doctor after Filipe wakes up then we could go home. I felt that there was something wrong with my son and I was worried that he hadn’t woken up from his sleep.”
Mrs Tadulala then shared that at that time, Filipe’s doctors called and advised her if they could discuss the results of her son’s condition.
“Like any other parent, my mind started to race and questions started to flood my mind and on my way to the doctor’s room I was so nervous. We sat with the eye doctor and when he uttered the word cancer, my mind went blank.”
“It’s any mother’s worst nightmare to hear that your child has been diagnosed with cancer. The doctor explained Filipe’s condition, that he had been diagnosed with Retinoblastoma cancer and it was curable depending on how soon it was treated.”
Retinoblastoma is an uncommon eye cancer that usually affects children under five, although it can affect children of any age.
“For the next step of treatment, we needed to fly to New Zealand to get specialised treatment. The tumour was growing at the back of his pupil and if it wasn’t treated, the tumour would float to his brain,” she said.
“I spoke with my husband and we agreed to take him to New Zealand. The advice that was given by the doctor was not to delay for another month because the tumour was growing and could affect his brain.”
In October 2014, Mrs Tadulala and her son flew to Christchurch, New Zealand for the eye laser treatment because it was not available in Fiji.
“For 28 days, our routine every morning was to go to hospital and get the laser treatment for his eye to kill the cancer cells. Filipe was also undergoing chemotherapy and it continued when we returned to Fiji later that year.”
Earlier this year, they were given the news that Filipe is 75 per cent cancer free, but according to his mother Mrs. Tadulala they continue with his check-ups every month until they get that 100 per cent cancer free news.
Now a Year 6 student at Suva Methodist Primary School, Filipe is one of the top students despite being able to use only one eye. “It’s always my prayer that one day my son will be cancer free and he will enjoy a normal life without any medication,” a hopeful Mrs Tadulala said.
“I would like to encourage any parent or guardian that may be going through a similar situation that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.”
“I hope that sharing this story will inspire others not to give up,”she added.
Mrs Tadulala conveyed her heartfelt gratitude to all the staff of the Oncology Unit Children’s ward at the CWM Hospital for their support, Walk on Walk Strong (WOWS) Kids Fiji team for their never-ending support during and after Filipe’s treatment, her family and friends that have contributed to assist her family during this challenging time.
With the start of the Childhood Cancer Awareness month in August, WOWS co-founder, Sina Kami highlighted that saving the lives of children was paramount and that this was only possible through the support of people and the Government.
Mrs Kami said the organisation aims to collect $300,000 every year to support children and provide them with muchneeded treatment, transport assistance and medicines.
“Our organisation is the bridge from the home to hospital care for children that have been diagnosed with cancer.”
“We work in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health to coordinate and provide holistic support for our WOWS kids and their families in their cancer journey; and we lead the way in raising awareness on childhood cancer issues in Fiji.”
“The child support we provide includes paying for the diagnostic testing, treatments and medication costs, transportation costs.”
“We also work to raise awareness of the symptoms of cancer and treatment options. We run a number of campaigns throughout the year to raise awareness and money such as the Shave for Change campaign, dollar drives and walkathons.”
WOWS Kids Fiji, a registered non-profit charitable organisation established in 2009, provides support for children diagnosed and living with cancer in Fiji.
Mrs Kami has urged all business houses, communities and families to give them 15 minutes of their day so the team can create awareness about childhood cancer in the month of August.