Le Hoang Rina is 4 years old and has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. For the next 3 years of her life she will spend more time at the Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital than she will in her own home. Her mother will be there, by her side for all of it. Taking care of her, comforting her, feeding her. Their home where her father and other family are is over 560km away. The families that share the room at the hospital will serve as her extended family for these next years, all helping each other any way that they can. Le Hoang Rina is lucky, her prognosis is very good and because she is under 6 her treatment will be provided free by the government of Vietnam, but for most of the children at the hospital this is not the case.
Of the 160 children at the hospital about 80% are diagnosed in late stages of the disease. This is mostly due to the economic conditions that people face in Vietnam. They cannot afford to go to the doctor, so they wait until they absolutely must go. By this time it is often too late to save them and unfortunately palliative care becomes their best option for treatment. Most people have little to no awareness about cancer here. Myths and stigmas are still very strong. It is my great hope to help to create cancer awareness programs here. I believe that by educating people about what cancer is, what steps they can take to prevent it, and what their options are if they are diagnosed with cancer, can begin to help to save peoples lives and ease the burden on the overtaxed health care system here.
Here are a few more photos of the 160 children that share 4 rooms at the hospital with their families.