SheHUB Nigeria: Battling Leukemia–One African Mother’s Story Of Losing Her First Child

The joy of motherhood can be limitless, and it is the same with the pain of losing a child. The memory perches the mind and soar above all thoughts. Fresh as paint, the child’s adventures live on at the edges of the mind, as tears threaten to fall at the slightest mention of the youngster’s name.

The sweet-sorrowful feeling is an experience Yetunde Omolola Udoh knows too well. Ms Udoh experienced the dreadful part of motherhood at a time when the world feared the deadly virus COVID-19 as it spread its tentacles across the globe. 

Before unravelling the dreadful experience of losing a child, the pain that comes with it, and the essential transformational healing process, Ms Udoh first described to the joy that soared in her heart when she brought her first son, Oluwatimilehin David Udoh, into the world.

“I gave birth to Oluwatimilehin on the 3rd of December, 2006, at Lagos State Teaching  Hospital, Ayinke House, Ikeja, at around 8 p.m.,” she said.  “I had him as a premature baby, but I was really glad he was alive. I had a great relief that I was not barren due to my two histories of miscarriages. I immediately fell in love with him when he came to the world and concluded I would call him Oluwatimilehin, which means God is my support.”

Oluwatimilehin David Udoh

As a boy, Timilehin was intelligent and vibrant. He attended The Pledge Private College,  New Oko-Oba, Lagos, from Nursery to Primary 1. Afterwards, he attended Bethel Gemini Nursery & Primary School, Second Junction, Oke-Ira, Lagos, from Basic 1 to 5. From his Junior Secondary School until his Senior Secondary School, he attended The Excellent Foundation College at Agidigbi, Ikeja.

As his family fondly called him, Timmy wanted to become a medical doctor. Beyond his professional ambition, Timilehin excelled at many things, including sports and drama. He played football well, and his parents soon enrolled him at a community football training centre– Pepsi Football Academy, at Agege Stadium, Lagos. 

Battling Leukemia: One African mother’s story on losing her first child
Timilehin Udoh with an award for excellence in sport at school.

At their local church, Christ Miracle Church Mission Worldwide, Oke-Ira, Lagos, Timilehin often acted as a pastor during children drama’s class.

“Timmy was a comedian; I mean, he was very funny. I hardly had a sorrowful moment when we were together.  He was also kind and eager to help in his capacity. Timilehin was a wonderful child,” Ms Udoh recounted.

When Timilehin reached his first senior secondary class (SS1), he started having a series of breakdowns.

Ms Udoh told“I first noticed his illness on August 21st, 2020, because Timilehin had a slight temperature. My husband and I immediately took him to a pharmaceutical store close to our house. We were advised by the pharmacist to treat him for malaria, which we did. He felt better and continued with his education.”

However, the relief Timilehin had was temporary. Like a thief in the night, the illness presented itself the following month. In September, the boy fell sick again. The family took him for a test at Precise Diagnostic Centre at Fagba, Iju Ishàga, this time. Ms Udoh said the medical institution informed them that their son had an infection.

“We took the report to Shekinah Pharmacy, Fagba, the pharmacist then advised us to run a test on him.  He was placed on antibiotics and some other medications,” Ms Udoh said.

After Timmy used the drugs he was given, he again felt better.

“Our family was happy thinking the sickness war was over,” Ms Udoh told

The relief was, again, temporary and lasted for two months. In November, Timilehin felt sick. This time, the family took a more escalating approach and took him to Hamkad Hospital Nigeria Limited in Abule-Egba, Lagos.

There, the hospital told the couple their son’s blood level was low, and he needed a transfusion. After making financial arrangements, the hospital gave Timmy three pints of blood; he was treated for an infection and discharged. The medical centre further advised the couple to take their son to a haematologist for a further check-up. However, the couple did not do so immediately due to the global restrictions of COVID-19 at the time.

Nevertheless, after Hamkad Hospital’s treatment, Timilehin seemed better. “We even threw him a sitting room party for clocking 14 years on December 3rd, 2020. He was so happy dancing that ‘no more sickness,’ but shortly after, he became ill again,” Ms Udoh said.

Christmas soon came a few weeks later, but Timilehin was still unhealthy.

“Timilehin could not eat any of the meals I prepared for the festive. I had to discuss with his dad that we should go back to Hamkad Hospital because he was not getting better at all,” Ms Udoh said.

The husband obliged Ms Udoh’s advice, and at Hamkad, the doctor on duty advised that Timilehin should be transferred to a Federal hospital in any state to see a haematologist for intensive care.

Battling Leukemia: One African mother’s story on losing her first child
Ms Udoh and her son at the Federal Teaching Hospital Ido-Ekiti.

The couple decided to be referred to the Federal Teaching Hospital at Ido-Ekiti. On December 27th, 2020, Ms Udoh went home to arrange how they would temporarily move from Lagos State to Ekiti State, a six-hour, 36-minute journey by road.

“We arrived at the Federal Teaching Hospital in Ido Ekiti on the 31st of December,  2020, and a series of tests were carried out on Timmy,” Ms Udoh said. “It was there we were finally informed that he was suffering from a sickness called Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, which is cancer of the bone marrow.”


Battling Leukemia: One African mother’s story on losing her first child
Photo source: National Cancer Institute

The National Cancer Institute describe Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia as a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). Some of its symptoms are fever, tiredness, and easy bruising or bleeding.

Ms Udoh shared that upon hearing the news that her son had cancer, her initial feeling was shock and then depression. She said she and her family cried endlessly.

The journey to healing Timi was a slippery slope. The family did everything they could and spent everything they had, including selling their properties, praying endlessly, and receiving donations.  Ms Udoh told, they spent over ₦7 million (US $8850), including buying over 40 pints of blood and a series of medicines, which cost as much as ₦41,500 (US $52) each.

“At some point, he was responding fast to treatment. However, one evening in April 2021, the senior haematologist at the Federal Teaching Hospital, Ido-Ekiti, called me into his office to say that Timilehin’s platelet level had dropped and he may start having internal bleeding,” Ms Udoh said.

The haematologist advised that Timilehin should be taken to a hospital for a platelet transfusion. The family quickly rushed to raise ₦700,000 (US $885) for the procedure and took their son to Next Hematologist Care, Surulere, Lagos, to receive two pints of blood. After the transfusion, he returned to the Federal Teaching Hospital, Ido-Ekiti.

However, two weeks after the platelet transfusion, on May 24, 2021, Timilehin passed away.

Ms Udoh described her pain.

“Losing my first child is detaching the apple of my eye from me. It’s an irreplaceable loss. It’s a very terrible and traumatic experience. I don’t think any parents deserve to lose a child,” she said.

On beginning her transformational healing after the loss, she told “At first, I wasn’t able to recover. I cried every day. My husband does, and our second child, too.”

She, however, said that she began her journey through healing with time, her faith in God, and her family and friends’ emotional support. 

“Jubril Ajifolawe, David Udoh, Ms Morunde Olonilua, Bose Oladokun, Esther Ayeomere, Ms Ojo Falade and Bukola Popola played a major role in making me see life as pleasant again,” she said.

Ms Udoh’s honours the memory of her son by continually sharing his story. She also stated, “We purchased a land in his name, which is where we laid him to rest. We are trying to raise funds to put a structure where doctors in Ido-Ekiti can also have shelter.”


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