In Summary
  • The idea is to build self-acceptance and find ways of coping with the treatment. The acknowledgement and acceptance gives one a fighting chance.
  • Finding the right “tribe” or support system: Not all such help groups may be helpful, and it can take time while trying to find the one(s) that work for you.

People react to cancer diagnosis in different ways. While some may seek a way out, others take it as a death sentence.

Take the case of Purity Muthoni, 40, who committed suicide on August 1 in Naivasha after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Or Tabathia Mugambi, 65, who ended his life on August 10 in Laikipia County after a cancer diagnosis.

However, others have chosen to fight on and have come out to declare that cancer is not a death sentence. They stay positive throughout their cancer battle. Here are their inspiring stories:

******

Ruth Wanjiku: “Cancer is not a death sentence”

Ruth has only one leg and one lung due to cancer. It started with a swelling on the back of her knee in 2014 when she was 17 years old.

In January 2015, the swelling was found to be cancerous, caused by a cancer that originates from the bone. “I remember the shock I felt when the doctor broke the news to me.

I had only heard of cancer. I never at one point thought that it would ever happen to me,” she told Nation earlier this year.

The leg was amputated in March 2015. Medics overlooked the importance of administering chemotherapy and as a result, she was found to have cancer in her left lung in 2017.

“Results showed that it was cancerous and at Stage Four. The recurrence was a big blow to me.

"My doctor explained that the cancer had spread to my lungs because no chemotherapy or radiation, which normally eliminate cancer cells, was done after my amputation,” she said.

After medication and removal of the lung, she was told that she was cancer-free in February 2018.

“Truly, there is no better feeling than having a huge load lifted off your back. I still experience the fear of recurrence. Any feeling of pain, even as small as a toothache, scares me greatly. My faith and trust in the Lord keeps me going,” said Ruth.

cancer

Ruth Wanjiuku. Ruth has only one leg and one lung due to cancer. PHOTO | COURTESY

Ruth shared with Lifestyle her message to those battling the disease: "Many people think of death right after a cancer diagnosis. And it doesn’t help that many of the doctors who break these news lack empathy for the patient. Suicide also comes about when a patient thinks of how expensive the treatment ahead is going to cost.

Coming from a poor background, I also had suicidal thoughts after the diagnosis. This is why we are fighting to have cancer declared a national disaster.

I would urge the society to accept the patient wholeheartedly. Stigma is also another cause of the rising suicide cases.

To the cancer patient, cancer is not a death sentence. Embrace the love around you and within you. It’s the first step towards fighting this."

******

OMONDI OCHUKA

The 29-year-old has seen cancer in almost all its colours.

Nine years ago, he was diagnosed with primary liver cancer that was in Stage Two. The test was done after he passed out while chatting with his university classmates.

“The doctors were very empathetic and professional. The team comprised a psychologist, oncologist and a counsellor. It didn’t take away the bad news, but I was very pleased with how they handled it,” he says of the team that disclosed the news to him at the Aga Khan University Hospital.

The tumour in his liver had done considerable damage to the vital organ. To tackle the cancerous growth, Omondi underwent eight sessions of chemotherapy, 40 sessions of radiotherapy and numerous pills from February 2012.

He completed his medication in March 2013 and his body began recovering from the side effects of the hard-hitting treatments.

SUPPORT SYSTEM

But just when he thought he was out of the woods, doctors found that cancer had formed in his brain by May 2015.

“I resigned to fate at this point. I gave up,” Omondi recalls. “To me, it was a matter of time before I died. I stopped my treatment and went to my grandmother’s home in Nyakach.”

His family however marshalled resources with the assistance of a local insurer and took him to India for treatment in November 2016.

There, medics administered various types of medication to deal with the cancerous cells in his liver and brain.

He returned to Kenya in mid-2017 and to his shock, the cancer recurred in 2018. He says that was not “such a big deal”.

“Cancer had become a huge part of my life story. I had accepted it wholly. It spread to the blood and the bone, and this is where I stand currently. I’m still on medication,” he says.

“Aside from my family and friends, I am my greatest support system. Through my journey, I have come to learn that I am a very strong and resilient person. My doctors, support groups, as well as strangers, have also been really supportive of my journey,” adds Omondi.

Page 1 of 2