The remarkable strength of the seven-year-old who fought cancer
It’s the beginning of a new term. Alarm clocks sound off, shrill reminders that it’s back to school. A chorus of “Five more minutes!” resounds through the bedrooms of children across South Africa. Not Imraan Freeman. Not today. After spending three months in an oncology ward, the Grade 2 learner is itching to return to his friends, and his favourite subject – maths. He also has his long term goals sorted. “I want to be a policeman to catch the skollies,” Imraan says. There’s no doubt he can. This past year, he proved what a fighter he is.
In November 2017, Imraan started experiencing stomach aches and diarrhoea. His mother, Faranaaz Freeman, thought it was an infection. But doctors soon confirmed otherwise. Imraan was diagnosed with stage three Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare and aggressive cancer that’s usually fatal. “I never thought a child could get cancer,” Faranaaz says. “It was like my whole world was turning upside down.” Imraan began treatment immediately. Lying in bed connected to tubes, his mother questioned whether he would make it. But Imraan proved his strength, motivating the people around him even when he was in pain. “Every time he got chemo, he kept asking, ‘Mommy why are you crying?’” Faranaaz says. “He told the doctors, ‘There’s nothing wrong with me.’”
A single parent, Faranaaz realised that she needed to be strong. “There’s a lot of mothers that don’t know which direction to go,” she says. “What I can tell them from experience is not to give up because the child is drawing strength from you.” In March this year, tests showed Imraan had no trace of illness. “When the doctor told me Imraan was cancer-free, I took my son’s hand and ran out of there because that’s no place a child should be,” Faranaaz says. Today, Imraan is in full recovery thanks to the tireless work of doctors, nurses, and volunteers. But it’s his mother’s love, unconditional and unfailing, that has kept him alive. “When I said I’m not burying my son at seven years old, I meant it,” Faranaaz says. Her resilience is mirrored in her son. “My message is to keep on fighting,” Imraan says.