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)