Fortuna Messaye is a 14-year-old girl from a small rural village in Ethiopia. Four years ago, she started to feel extremely tired and lightheaded. As the local hospital did not have the equipment needed to diagnose or treat her illness, she and her mother traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city. After visiting a larger hospital, Fortuna was diagnosed with leukemia and began chemotherapy treatment. Since Fortuna’s diagnosis, she has been supported by the Mathios Wondu Ethiopian Cancer Society (MWECS), a local organization that has ensured she has access to the drugs and treatment that she needs.
Why Fortuna’s story matters
In the span of three years, Fortuna’s treatment has cost more than 25 times the average annual income in Ethiopia. Without the support of MWECS, Fortuna and her family would not have been able to afford the treatment that she needed.
Along with paying for her treatment, MWECS provides housing and additional social support for Fortuna. After her mother fell ill and had to return home to her village, MWECS supported Fortuna by giving her a place to stay, which has allowed her to continue to receive the treatment she needs. A community of patients, nurses, social workers, and support staff surrounds Fortuna at MWECS and provides her with social and emotional support. As Fortuna explains, “They bought the medicine for me, regardless of price. They supported me. They share the burden with me and find solutions.” When she speaks with Berhanu, a social worker at MWECS, he assures Fortuna that “we’ll do what we have to, don’t worry.”
Emotional and social support throughout treatment is a vital component of care. As Fortuna has had to travel such a long way to pursue treatment, she is separated from her family, friends, and community, and is unable to attend school. Having a support system and a new “family” through MWECS, Fortuna is able to focus on getting better.