For those that know him, Cooper S. Barh is an agreeable and approachable fellow. He has been that way all his life.
Sadly, the mild mannered father of four, who dislikes attention, noticed a small swelling in his left jaw that would usher him into the limelight, drawing excessive attention to himself.
“It was around 2011 that I noticed the slight swelling. I didn’t pay much attention to it. I just thought it was something that would eventually go away,” he said.
Unfortunately, the swelling didn’t go away as it grew rapidly; leading some people to suggest that he was a victim of witchcraft.
But Cooper Barh is not a superstitious man. Ignoring that prognosis, he decided to seek medical help.
“I first went to JFK Hospital in 2011, but they said their system was down. I was referred to Mechlin Clinic on Randall Street in Monrovia, but their system was also not working. Fortunately I met a doctor at Mechlin Clinic who was also at JFK, who said he wanted to help, but that he could only do so at Jackson F. Doe Hospital in Tappita, Nimba County.”
After several tests, an X-Ray and a sample of fluids taken from the swelling, Barh was diagnosed with a malignant form of ameloblastoma, a type of cancer in the mouth. It is a rare, typically benign tumor that originates in odontogenic epithelial tissue (tissue of the jaw, usually near the third molar, a large back tooth). These tumors are rarely spread to other parts of the body, and they rarely develop into a malignant growth. They can result in lesions that lead to severe abnormalities in the jaw and face.
Neoplastic tissue associated with an ameloblastoma can also easily infiltrate and damage the surrounding bone structures. Thus, wide surgical excision is often necessary to treat and/or reduce symptoms of this disorder.
“To say the least, I was devastated. Surgery was suggested, but all I could think of was how was I going to be able to afford the cost?” he asked.
Unable to afford surgery on his Liberia civil servant pay, between 2011 and 2014, Barh, who works at the Ministry of Public Works, watched with utter dismay as the tumor continued to grow, drawing stares from everyone he came across.
A brief glimmer of hope presented itself in 2014 when a team of visiting physicians at St. Joseph’s Catholic Hospital promised to treat him, but later said the surgery cannot be performed in Liberia. Since then, Barh has been trying to seek medical attention outside Liberia to no avail.
“I am appealing to humanitarians and groups to help me because I am dying slowly. Since 2011 to now, I have not received any treatment for this cancer. The sickness is growing slowly. Please come to my aid and help me seek medical help as this cannot be treated in Liberia,” he pleaded with the public.
Those willing to help can reach the victim’s brother, Mr. Lawson on 0775 541 286.