Cancer in Zimbabwe: Elizabeth’s breast cancer returns; she asks for your spiritual support

Dr. Elizabeth Tarira (right) with her mother and sister Juliet. Juliet runs the Shelter Trust, an NGO in Harare that works with St. Albert's Hospital to care for abandoned pregnant women.

21st June 2011

Dearest Friends,

God has always good plans for each and every one of us. 

Greetings from Rome! Some of you have been following my breast-cancer illness for many years now, so I have to give you some updates. It seems I have developed resistance to the drugs I have been taking.

At the end of 2009, I had another small lump operated just below the previous scar and had a small mark on the sternum bone. The cancer markers that had started going up, after the operation and the change of therapy, started going down. This year at my check up, the markers had risen again and seemed on a loose end, and one of the ribs had some osteoblast sign (the bone looked eaten up). This did puzzle the doctors. Now I have been put on a new hormone treatment which is an injection (chemotherapy) every 28 days. I do not know yet if I shall respond well to this treatment. I shall have the blood test repeated on the 4th of July. The drug name is Faslodex (generic name, fulvestrant) produced by Astra Zeneca.

The sad thing about this treatment is that it is unsustainable. One injection costs 600€, which is equivalent to 828 US dollars. Where can I get this kind of money every 28 days? Even two months of hard work day and night, I still would not be able to buy one dose. If we put the salary of three doctors together then only can we purchase one dose, but how will we then survive? We are eight in community!  With a situation like this, I just remain speechless. This drug is only sold to Hospitals and requires a cold chain supply – it must be kept like the vaccines in the fridge between 4-8 degrees of temperature. In Zimbabwe the drug is not even available. I tried to contact an oncologist who referred me to a pharmacist, who in turn replied that he is not able to order the medicine for me. In Italy I just go to the Hospital and I get the drug free because I fall in the category of indigent.

I still have a mission to accomplish back home. There is a lot of work to be done, true. But there are many people who are in need of drugs just like me. Some are dying even too early, and yet I have been pulled along for more than ten years, getting all the possible treatments and care. The first thing to hound me is how I am so egoistic! Only me who wants to continue living….

But, God is great! Friends here in Italy, many are geared that whatever cost it shall be, they are prepared to help me for some time to get the injection. I have already treatment secured for a year and over. I just cannot find words to thank these generous friends; you have to help me to pray for them and that is all I can assure them. Let us all pray for a miracle that that this bad cell just vanishes, if this is the will of the God. I am quite serene. If I stress myself for a situation I cannot do anything, then the bad cell will be quite happy to multiply. I still have the strength to fight and have trust in the Divine Providence.

I am coming back home on the 8th of July and will be doing my work as usual. Continue praying for me as I do for each every one of you.

Yours in the Lord
Elizabeth Tarira (Dr)

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5 Responses to Cancer in Zimbabwe: Elizabeth’s breast cancer returns; she asks for your spiritual support

  1. kay huebner says:

    But will you have enough money to travel back and forth to Italy for the treatments? This is not egoism, that you wish to be able to go on and continue helping your patients. I believe you are completely right to try not to succumb to stressful feelings. I will pray that you will be able to maintain your serenity and your health.

  2. Thanks to that little woman, our mother, who has instilled a lot of courage in both Juliet and me with a spirit of service for others. What we saw happening at our rural home when we were young is what we try to do as adults wherever we are in the world. Thanks, Darrell, for assuring me that the Fulvestrant is a potential drug to restore my health. My system has to respond.

  3. Alicia Ward McGovern says:

    My husband, Travis and I have purchased a luminaria in honor of Dr. Tarira for this weekend’s Relay For Life. It is an American Cancer Society walk/run that is being held at a local high school. The event runs continuously from 6pm on Friday, 06/24, until noon on Saturday, 06/25.

    Two high school friends of ours both lost their mothers to cancer and have put together a team of walkers. One person from the team must be walking on the track at all times…cancer never sleeps so why should they? Since I will be out of town, Travis will be walking for both of us.

    A luminaria is a small paper lantern (commonly a candle set in some sand inside a small, decorated paper bag). Once it’s dark, the luminaria’s are lit and light the way around the track throughout the night. It’s absolutely beautiful.

    Considering Dr. Tarira’s most recent unsettling news, I thought she would be a wonderful person we could do this in honor of. She is an inspiring, amazingly unselfish woman who has dedicated her life to helping others. I only wish we could now help her. I hope the injections work wonders for her and she can successfully battle this awful disease.

  4. Alicia and Travis. Thanks for your generosity. The luminaria with my name written on it, just let “two big drops of water fall out of my eyes.” I can immagine also the emotion of your friends who saw such a solidarity from the people who walked for life. The photos of the procession were just beautiful Travis.

  5. I am leaving for Zimbabwe with doses of the medicine for 6 months. For my ticket of travel heaven knows where the money will come from.

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