They had thought it was a tummy bug.
Late last year, seven-year-old Imraan Freeman’s teacher had called his mom Faranaaz, and asked her to pick her son up from school.
Faranaaz did, and took her little boy to the clinic for a check-up.
“They just said it was diarrhoea,” Faranaaz, from Mitchells Plain in Cape Town says.
But when the ‘diarrhoea’ wouldn’t go away and Iraam started vomiting up his food, Faranaaz knew something was very, very wrong.
“It just didn’t sit well with me. He was a happy child during the day, but come night time and he’d cry because of the pain in his tummy.”
Faranaaz had Imraan lie down on the bed so she could feel his stomach. To her shock, she discovered golf ball sized lumps all over his stomach and rushed him back to the clinic, where she was referred to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.
He was sent for a battery of tests which confirmed the worst: Imraan had Burkitt’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system.
“This is the type of thing you read about or see on TV, it’s not something I expected to happen to my child,” Faranaaz recalls. “When they told me yes it is cancer, that’s all I heard, I went deaf for the rest.”
The very next day, Imraan was admitted to Red Cross for a biopsy, which confirmed the cancer, and he was started chemotherapy almost immediately.
“I’m unemployed and I receive a social grant so I didn’t need to pay for chemotherapy, which I think would’ve killed me financially,” she says.
Imraan spent three months in hospital, lost his hair because of the treatment and only had mild symptoms like a sore throat, but he remained a happy and positive little boy.
Faranaaz was by his side all day, leaving her other two children, Ashwarya (11) and Ni’mat (1), with her mother, which was emotionally taxing on the two girls.
But good news was soon to follow. In February this year, doctors agreed Imraan could go home as his test results were looking positive.
It wouldn’t be the end of his treatment, as he’d have to be back at the hospital for follow ups, but it was as good as the news would get.
“I can’t even explain that feeling,” Faranaaz gushes. “I was so happy, I immediately grabbed all of our stuff and ran out of that hospital,” she says.
On 6 November this year, when they saw a doctor for one of their many appointments, Imraan was pronounced completely cancer-free. Faranaaz says she was told that although a relapse was a possibility, it usually happened while the children are still receiving chemotherapy, so she’s hopeful for Imraan.
He’s due for one more doctor’s follow up, but Faranaaz is just happy her son has made it through and encourages other parents to keep believing in the strength of their young children. “They may be small, but they are fearless fighters,” she says.
“It was a difficult time, but I never had a doubt about Imraan. There’s no way I was ready to give him back,” she says. “He was my motivation. He may be small but he’s very strong. Don’t give up on your kids.”