A baby girl identified as Bibian who started menstruation at four months of age has survived sex cord stromal tumors- a rare type of cancer that forms in the tissues that support the ovaries or testes described by doctors as ‘rare ovarian cancer.’
Doctors explained that “These tumors may release sex hormones, and it is also called sex cord tumor and sex cord-gonadal stromal tumor.”
According to her mother, Faustine Andeso, who comes from Kenya, Bibia, her parents’ first child developed ovarian cancer when she was four months old.
“Bibian was born on April 16, 2019. She was born weighing 4.2kg. She looked healthy,” her mother said.
Things turned sour when Bibian turned four months old and started developing symptoms of puberty as she developed acne, her breasts enlarged, pubic hair began to sprout and after a month the symptoms appeared, Bibian started to bleed from the vagina.
“The bleeding lasted five days,” says her mother, which is the standard bleeding duration for a menstruating female.
Faustine who said she took her daughter to hospital explained that “She was treated for blood infection and given antibiotics.”
However, the situation didn’t improve. The following month, she bled again, “like she was having menses,” Bibian’s mother recalled.
Faustine who is now abandoned by her husband whom she married on March 24, 2018, said she moved from one hospital to another searching for proper diagnosis and treatment, but nothing came out of it.
She narrated how she borrowed money from friends, families and church to be able to pay the mounting medical bills of her daughter.
In December 2019, she travelled up country to mark holiday festivities with her mother.
“At some point, my mother was bathing Bibian and she noticed that the girl was bloated. She advised me to take her to hospital. I attributed the bloating to her big body because I am also big bodied,” Faustine said.
They eventually took her to Likuyani Sub-County Hospital, Kenya, where medics prescribed antibiotics and other medicines to treat bloating and indigestion.
“But my daughter’s symptoms got worse. She now had no appetite, was breathing heavily and could not stomach food,” Faustine said.
They then went back to the hospital again where Bibian was asked to undergo an ultrasound.
The results showed that Bibian’s abdomen was filled with fluids and she was referred to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital.
Faustine heeded the advice on December 26, 2019, and Baby Bibian was admitted for a fresh round of tests and scans .
“Around 10am on January 7, 2020, we were in the ward when I saw many doctors come in. One of them – their leader called out my name and I responded.
“He then explained that Bibian had a growth in her reproductive system. It was the growth that was producing fluids. He recommended surgery immediately.
“My heart sank. I feared that she wouldn’t make it through surgery,” the mother disclosed.
The lead doctor was Elly Odongo, an obstetrician and gynaecologist and the head of gynaecological oncology at MTRH.
Dr. Odongo said, “Bibian’s case was brought to my attention in early 2020. From tests, the girl had a type of ovarian cancer known as sex cord stromal tumour.”
Odongo who advised parents of young girls to be on the lookout for symptoms that mimic puberty said Bibian’s cancer was at stage 2 when she was taken to MTRH.
“Cancer? Of the ovaries? In a baby? I thought this disease only affects women of reproductive age,” Bibian’s mother recalls.
Dr. Odongo told Bibian’s mother that the tumour was functional; it was producing hormones- oestrogen and testosterone, noting that it was the reason the baby showed symptoms of a child entering puberty.
“The blood she was shedding is equivalent to menstruation in a woman of reproductive age. Of course, in an eight-month-old, this means something is wrong,” Odongo says.
The next day, Dr. Odongo and his team carried out a surgery on Bibian and removed the tumours. The surgery was followed by chemotherapy – which her mother said was brutal on Baby Bibian.
Faustine mentioned that her daughter’s fight against cancer has cost her friendships, her old job, peace of mind, and, worst of all, her marriage.
Now at age two years and five months, Bibian has been declared cancer-free, but needs immune boosters and multivitamin supplements to help her fight common infections as chemotherapy has affected her immunity.