Beryl Thyer Memorial Africa Trust: supporting African children that suffer from Burkitt lymphoma cancer

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Archive for April, 2012

London Marathon 2012

I have never seen the London Marathon live before. Only seen it on TV. Today I was there, with friends and family, to watch it live.

Claire McLoughlin – friend of my son David and Sara his girlfriend – ran it for the Beryl Thyer Trust. We saw Claire at mile 18, going well, and we were with her at the finish. The whole run was in good weather. Countless thousands were there cheering people they knew and people they did not know. One could not but admire the 40,000 runners, and it was remarkable to see how many charities were being supported.

The day left us with the feeling of universal goodwill and solidarity, and a massive  sense of community spirit of global proportions. We spotted entrants from France, Sweden, Norway, South Africa, Australia – as well as from all over the UK.

Claire – number 10,867 in the event – took 4hrs 40 minutes to complete the course.

Wind and rain arrived after the finish. David and I accompanied Claire to her home, where she rapidly recovered from the painful after-effects of the 26 miles.

Claire: on behalf of the Trustees of BTMAT, I put on record our gratitude and admiration for your determination and fortitude, for your willingness to run for our Trust, and for the resulting £2,200 you have raised for the seriously sick children with cancer in Cameroon! What more can we say but ‘a heartfelt thank you’.

Peter McCormick

Mile 18

Supporters camp


North-west Cameroon Parents Organisation

The results of our Burkitt lymphoma treatment programme under the clinical direction of Prof Peter Hesseling and supported by BTMAT are acknowledged as the best recorded in small resource limited hospitals in subSaharan Africa.

We are justifiably proud of the results of our hospital chemotherapy but of equal importance is advocacy for the programme in the community and the education of ordinary people regarding the nature and treatment of childhood cancer.

There is little or no concept of “CANCER” in rural Cameroon. Patients of children with Burkitt’s lymphoma will first consult a village practitioner who is most likely to give the diagnosis of “witchcraft”. The parents thus understand that this is not a problem that falls within the expertise of “western” hospital doctors. The most effective way of countering this ignorance is through the advocacy of parents whose children have been treated at one of the 3 CBCHB hospitals. These parents know the signs of cancer and are able to tell “new” parents where to find help.

Dr Francine Kouya, Prof Peter Hesseling and I were instrumental in the establishment of the North-west Cameroon Parents Organisation in May, 2011. The organisation has been registered with Cameroonian government authorities by Dr Francine. The officers and members meet at Mbingo Baptist Hospital. Smaller local parents groups have been formed in the villages and should become self-financing in due course. One at Ntaba village has already planned and instigated a pig rearing project. Monies raised will pay the fares of poor parents and their child to hospital and possibly supplement food costs for parents whilst the child undergoes treatment.

We are changing things, slowly!

Dr Paul Wharin

Parents (Group) at Ntaba village who plan to rear pigs

BTMAT’s Marathon girl


Claire demonstrating some unorthodox pre-race stretching

Here’s Claire McLoughlin, in a park in Hackney. Four of the Trustees met her here at the end of March. A powerful, cheerful, and determined lady.

There are four gruelling hours of running ahead of her on April 22nd. She is closing on her target of £2,000 for BTMAT. We will be there to cheer her.

Have you sponsored her?!

Please do it!

Peter McCormick
Founder of BTMAT
1st class honours in International Begging.

Palliative care

We try hard to cure as many of our child cancer patients as we can.

You may have read elsewhere:

Q ‘What is our main aim ?’

A ‘To save the lives of children’

Q ‘What is our next aim?’

A ‘To save the lives of children’

Q ‘What is our next aim?’

A ‘To save the lives of children’

The screens at our child cancer conferences fill up with these words.

The audiences chant the answers; it can be a quite moving experience.

Another issue remains;

Q ‘What of those children we cannot save?’

A ‘To make their remaining life pain-free and dignified’

This also is very important, very frequent, and often very difficult in our

resource-limited situation in sub-Saharan Africa.

The aim is to do the best we can after all our first and second line treatments have failed. This is helping the child and the family when we know the child will die. This is Palliative Care.

Palliative Care (PC) as provided by the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board, (CBCHB) has only been in existence since 2005. It was started by a few dedicated nurses at CBCHB hospitals. The only drugs available at that time were paracetamol, anti-inflammatiries such as ibuprofen, and a poor ‘strong’ analgesic called pentazocine. The Palliative Care team now have morphine, both oral and injectable.

The PC colleagues travel daily to visit the homes of terminally sick children discharged from our wards. They generally start early in the morning, and frequently arrive home after dark. They are wonderfully committed and greatly appreciated by the families they visit.

They accept appropriate education from whichever visiting doctors they can. They attend workshops at which BTMAT Trustee Dr Paul Wharin and Professor Hesseling have provided input. They have reported on their work to the International Journal of Palliative Nursing (IJPN). They have had the benefit of the experience of Dr Catherine D’Souza and a group of her colleagues from the UK; new friends, and seriously dedicated doctors with an interest in PC.

At a recent Award ceremony held in London, our CBCHB PC team was shortlisted for a prize offered by IJPN. They were awarded a commendable second prize. Dr D’Souza and her friends received a donation from Professor Peter and Mrs Elizabeth Tavner, specifically for the development of PC insofar as it is aimed at our seriously sick cancer children.

The PC work forges ahead. We could not have envisaged it in the years before BTMAT came into being. BTMAT and the CBCHB will never now say ‘there is nothing more we can do for you’; we have a wonderful PC service, eager to learn, anxious to expand; committed to help incurable child patients and their families, to the end.

Peter McCormick


Major child cancer congresses organised by the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP), are held annually, in different host countries. Continental, smaller SIOP congresses are also held. The most recent was in Cape Town, March 19 – 24. Trustee Dr Paul Wharin and I were there.

Also present was a strong contingent of colleagues from Cameroon; Dr Edouard Katawi – from Baptist Hospital Mutengene; Dr Francine Kouya – from Mbingo Baptist Hospital; Nurse Comfort Kimbi – Mbingo Baptist Hospital; Nurse Glenn Mbah – Banso Baptist Hospital. Also in our group was Dr Mona Tamannai, a German Paediatrician, who has done research into the relationship of Burkitt lymphoma and malnutrition. Dr Naomi Wright, who had also done research for us in Cameroon, also turned up.

All of us had something to present at the congress; mostly posters on various aspects of our work, but Francine’s contribution was an oral presentation on the subject of ‘causes of delay in the presentation, diagnosis and treatment of children with cancer admitted to Mbingo Baptist Hospital’. For this she was awarded 2,000 SA Rand, as her paper was judged ‘the best in show’.

We met likeminded colleagues, passionate for children with cancer. Many we had met in previous years; it was good to see and confer with them again. It was good to meet new ones.

Our host, tourist guide, mentor and friend Prof Peter Hesseling was ever present. He met us all at the airport, took us on a tour of the Cape peninsula; fixed our hotels, gave us meals in his home, constantly discussed important issues with us regarding our joint work in Cameroon. He took us all to the airport at the end of the congress. We are deeply grateful to him for his Clinical Directorship of BTMAT, and we are very grateful that his dear wife Emmarentia allows him to keep moving around the planet in the cause of children with cancer in resource-poor countries; especially Cameroon.

Peter McCormick

Prof Hesseling comes to Warkton

Our Clinical Director has family in Rugby; his daughter Sonella has recently had her first child. Prof Peter and his wife came to visit them there.

Peter expressed the desire to come to Warkton one day, to meet all Trustees of BTMAT, with a view to reviewing what we have achieved together in the past, and to consider the next five years of collaboration. A lovely meeting it was. Peter cleared up a number of medical/administrative issues which were on Trustees’ minds.

He spoke also of a meeting he would attend in Cameroon in October, at which the proposal for a unified National treatment regime for Burkitt lymphoma in Cameroon would be raised. This would involve several agencies: Child cancer staff at the Children’s Hospital in Yaounde; the Cameroonian Ministry of Health; the French-African Paediatric Oncology Group; World Child Cancer; and of course BTMAT.

Peter Hesseling has certainly put us on the world stage as regards child cancer.

We are not ploughing a lone furrow; we are in partnership with many great people and respected organisations.

The Warkton meeting cemented our friendship with our friend Peter Hesseling!

Peter McCormick