In Summary
  • In 2010, her mother was brought to Kilifi county hospital unconscious with some blood patches in her urine, and was first suspected to be cervical cancer.
  • But when she took her for further check up at a private hospital in Mombasa, the results only showed that it was constipation. She was treated and discharged, went back home.
  • Two years later she started to develop chest pains and lack of appetite, turned pale and grew thinner as days went by.
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Once upon a time, 49-year-old Florence Kitsao did not need to beg to live. She had a well-paying job and supplemented her income by keeping poultry.

Until her mother Juliana Mwenda was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2012.

“I sold everything to treat my mother until eventually I had nothing. Everything was exhausted.”

Oesophageal cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide.

In 2010, her mother was brought to Kilifi county hospital unconscious with some blood patches in her urine, and was first suspected to be cervical cancer.

But when she took her for further check up at a private hospital in Mombasa, the results only showed that it was constipation. She was treated and discharged.

Two years later, she started to develop chest pains and lack of appetite, turned pale and grew thinner as days went by.

DIFFICULTY IN BREATHING

“She had difficulty in breathing and at one time collapsed twice while she was still at the village in Kaloleni.”

According to Florence, her mother underwent surgery in December 2012, a procedure that involved inserting a tube from the oesophagus to the stomach to aid her in feeding.

The oesophagus was almost blocked. This was at the height of the nurses’ strike so the procedure had to be done in a private hospital in Mombasa.

She said that although there were other siblings in the family, the burden of footing medical bills for her mother was put squarely on her, a task she said proved too tough for her but she soldiered on.

“They said I could foot the bill since I had a well-paying job in the city even though I pleaded with them to help. I raised Sh30, 000 through friends to enable my mother get admission for the procedure at the private hospital. The cost of the operation stood at Sh230, 000 during the time of discharge.”

Through the help of a friend, she managed to secure a loan of Sh200, 000 from a bank and her mother was discharged.

SURVIVED ON LIQUIDS

“For a whole year, my mother survived on liquids, and whenever she fed on solid foods, she had to take a soda (Coke) to clean the tube.

Unfortunately, my mother lost the battle and died in December 2013.”

Apart from the pain of losing her mother, Ms Kitsao had to endure with the brunt of clearing the loan she had acquired to treat her mother.

At the time of her mother’s death, the debt had accrued and by 2014 it stood at Sh1.5 million.

“My fortunes began to dwindle because for the whole year after surgery, I had to buy painkillers for her at a cost of Sh18, 000 every two weeks. By then I had lost my job and my poultry business was struggling.”

DEPRESSED AND CONFUSED

Florence said she was depressed, lacked concentration at work and was openly confused. She eventually lost her job.

She turned to her poultry business as her only source of income but this dependency eventually took a toll on the finances of the business and it, too, collapsed.

“It was the same business which I used to educate and pay fees for my children. It had a net worth of Sh120, 000 per month. In fact I was about to buy a canter truck but it was not to be. The business crumbled and I was heavily in debt.”

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