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29 Dec, 2008 06:51

Brave youngsters show fight against cancer can be won

New Year's Eve is a time for making wishes, but for thousands of children with serious illnesses there's just one request – to become healthy again.

More than 5,000 children in Russia are diagnosed with cancer every year.

The good news is that more than half are cured but the treatment takes a lot of effort and resources.

The children at one specialist hospital in Moscow suffer from various forms of blood cancer. There are 50 of them there. Many have already spent several years there, some receiving treatment for all their young lives.

Natasha Babochkina has a rare blood disorder. Sometimes she fantasises about being a fairy godmother capable of making any wish come true. Her bone marrow doesn't make enough new blood cells so nine-year-old Natasha needs a blood transfusion every day. But she is not lonely.

She says her friends usually come to see her. She plays with Barbie with them and they make snowball in winter. Her mother Antonina comes to boost the morale of the little patient.

“My daughter has a grown-up mind. Natasha understands everything and doesn’t panic. She’s strong. She knows it’s a trial, a challenge to overcome,” Antonina says.

Sergey Svyatkin has spent four of his thirteen years at the hospital, far from his home in Tolyatti in southern Russia. After several courses of chemotherapy and operations, he says he feels tired.

“I'm hoping to go home soon. I could probably go to school again, or maybe I'll just study at home,” he says, but his ultimate dream is to recover and become a DJ.

The boy’s mother Tatiana says that the hardest problem is to teach him to believe that everything will be alright: “That’s tough. If he loses faith, nothing becomes possible.”

Around 5,000 children become ill with cancer every year. The charity “Give a Life” helps many of them. Its founder, the famous Russian actress Chulpan Khamatova, wants more people to know that the disease is not a sentence and that children suffering from cancer have every chance of recovery.

“I hope more and more people will hear about ”Give a Life“ in the near future, so that even those who live in the most distant corners of our country know that children’s cancer is treatable and totally curable. Our help is desperately needed to make this happen,” she says.

Immense personal struggle is involved when it comes to treating cancer. Also practical hurdles have to be overcome. Apart from problems with blood shortages and lack of donors, financial problems have to be resolved.

“Unfortunately, the supply of medicine provided by the authorities' budget is not sufficient,” explains Ekaterina Chistyakova from ‘Give a Life’.

“Our charity foundation buys half the medicine, so that these kids can recover and live normal lives. There are no special provisions in our country concerning people with rare diseases. Meanwhile there are 5 million sufferers in Russia,” Ekaterina says.

This charity is not able to help all of them, but even if little patients of the Moscow hospital recover from their illness, this will give hope to others who are still waiting for help.