Cancer has claimed yet another life, adding onto statistics of more than 100,000 children under 15 worldwide who die from every year
I had been having an urge to call Joseph, this middle-aged man that I had interacted with when I visited Texas Cancer. Joseph was unique in so many ways but what stood out most is the sacrifice he had made to save the life of his little boy, Keith. Keith was suffering from leukemia, cancer of the blood or bone marrow.
When my colleague and I walked into the ward, in the company of Jane, the nurse, Joseph was patiently feeding the four-year-old boy. Keith was this handsome young boy whom anyone could fall in love with at first sight. He was happy, playful, and very warm to be with.
As we settled down, Joseph demystified lots of perceptions about cancer, which include the genetic and witchcrafts’ myths that surround cancer and it’s causes.
Here is his story:
“Cancer usually manifests itself as any disease. It can be flu, excessive sweating and swollen spleen as in my case, blood loss or excessive bleeding. You may treat these ailments for so long without an understanding of what is happening. At some point you may have a feeling like – my kid is not sick, he has just been bewitched. If luckily the doctors diagnose the disease, then treatment begins.
In my case, we had to go for a bone marrow aspirate to know exactly what Keith was ailing from.
Keith was a happy, healthy child until he started sweating so much at night. Sometimes we could blame it on the weather because we come from the Coast region and it can be very hot.”
“After sometime, the abdomen began swelling because the spleen was enlarging. We visited the paeditrician after a series of medication failed. When I did my research on the likely course, I established that the spleen is home of the white blood cells. When they are created in plenty, they store themselves there and try to fight any ailment in the system. The spleen was growing larger because that particular ailment had not been treated. When it persisted, I got alarmed. I did all test on the kid’s blood and organs. All the results showed that the kid was okay.
The last resort was bone marrow aspirate and I was forced to go for it. In the last week May 2018, we travelled to Nairobi and first visited Coptic Hospital. There was some slight delay in doing the procedure due to lack of experts. After consulting with some of my relatives, I was informed about Texas Cancer Centre. I took the kid there and Oncologist Dr. Catherine Nyongesa organized for the test. Unfortunately, Keith was diagnosed with Leukemia. This was the most traumatizing and crushing revelation about my kid’s health.
Soon after, the baby started bleeding from the mouth, nose, and there were lots clots in his blood.
Long and tedious
“The long tedious journey of treating cancer begun. First was transfusion where platelets were required every 4-5 days. These are very costly and rare to come by. A pint of platelets would cost approximately Ksh50,000.
Chemotherapy started much later after the kid stabilized. Chemotherpy is done for 5 days, then you rest for 10 days. One session of chemotherapy lasts about 30 hours.
NHIF came on time to help me pay for chemotherapy sessions. Previously, before the hospital got accredited by NHIF, one chemotherapy session would cost KSh44,000. It was quite a hurdle trying to think about this huge cost that was growing very fast. What gave me courage was the acceptance of living each day as it comes.”
“I quit employment in December 2017 to dedicate all my time to Keith’s well being. I am happy that my effort have come to fruition
Around early August, another bone marrow aspirate was done and results showed that body had started producing healthy cells. This now meant lesser expenditure on transfusion.
When buying platelets at the initial treatment process, I got so drained financially and had to form a Whatsapp Group to help me raise funds. While some friends helped me, some decided to stay off. I thank God for all those who spared something little to help me. One key contributor was the Safaricom Foundation.
My family has been very supportive to me in this journey. I call upon the public to get very close to people that have family members suffering from cancer. It is very traumatic. Just visiting a patient brings a lot of moral boost to a patient. I never imagined in my wilded dreams that a time like this, I would be holed up somewhere looking after my sick child. Along the way in cancer treatment, there are some warriors that drop, but we have those that emerge victorious.
But I am happy because my mandate has been fulfilled: to work hard for the betterment of Keith’s life. Keith is now much better and we thank God.”
Cancer: Key lessons learnt
“I have learnt a lot of lessons through my son’s experience.
1. In times of calamities like these, you get to lose so many friends, but God will always give you the friends that you need.
2. Problems can strike you when you least expect. Therefore, as long as you are living in this world, give a helping hand to the people in need.”.
When I finally picked my phone, dialed Joseph’s number, I heard wails of a man. I quickly disconnected and knew immediately that something was amiss. I asked my colleague to call him but the line was busy. When I finally gathered courage to call, the sad news hit me so hard, I was crushed. Cancer had claimed yet another young life.