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Cancer not death sentence, residents told

As the world celebrates Palliative care day, Hospice Busia in conjunction with Health care practitioners in Busia County took the opportunity to sensitize the public on the need for cancer screening.

The hospice held a10km walk aimed at equipping the public with adequate information on symptoms, screening, importance of NHIF card, and why early treatment is crucial for cancer patients with the theme ‘Cancer not a death sentence’.

Busia Hospice was officially launched in October 2014 by the late Peris Wandera at Tanaka Mission Hospital.  This is a Non-profit organization offering palliative care services to terminally ill patients to the infected and affected persons in Busia County, Kenya.

The hospice provides quality, cost effective and sustainable care to terminally ill patients and offers holistic care to cancer and HIV-Aids patients. Its Mission is to alleviate the suffering of patients with limiting illness and their families by commitment to service, counseling, training and advocacy.

Jane Wandera, a nurse at Samia Sub County in Busia urged residents of Busia to embrace cancer screening adding that they should not ignore it as cancer can be treated if identified at the early stages (1 and 2). Cervical and breast cancer are the most common in Busia county.

“In our service, we encounter patients with terminal illness, cancer as well as HIV/AIDS. They were going through unbearable pain despite attending health facilities and being given pain killers of all types. That is why Palliative care was introduced in Busia so that we can give hope and add life in their days,” said Wandera.

According to Busia Hospice chairman Mr. Daniel Ayuka, Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families who are facing problems associated with life-threatening illness. It prevents and relieves suffering through the early identification, correct assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, whether physical, psychosocial or spiritual.

Palliative care is explicitly recognized under the human right to health. It should be provided through person-centered and integrated health services that pay special attention to the specific needs and preferences of individuals.

According to WHO, Palliative care is required for a wide range of diseases. The majority of adults in need of palliative care have chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (38.5 per cent), cancer (34 per cent), chronic respiratory diseases (10.3 per cent), AIDS (5.7 per cent) and diabetes (4.6 per cent).

Many other conditions may require palliative care, including kidney failure, chronic liver disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, neurological disease, dementia, congenital anomalies and drug-resistant tuberculosis.

The hospice co-coordinator Wandera said three out of 10 patients who seek medical treatment in the county suffer from cancer-related ailments.

Elizabeth Caren Balongo, a breast cancer warrior, narrates how it was difficult to accept that she had cancer when she went for screening. She took a bold step to seek timely medications and she has now won the fight.

“It was pretty hard emotionally to deal with that kind of a change to my body, especially in my early 30s,” she says.

When she noticed changes on her breast, she went for a checkup at Tanaka Mission Hospital, where after several tests biopsy revealed she had cancer. She had been on treatment for two years now at Kenyatta University Hospital and the progress is positive.

“The thing that helped me the most was focusing on one day at a time and not looking too far ahead,” noted Balongo. “I never let a feeling of defeat creep in; I tried my best to stay positive. Seeing the brave smiles of those who were much older and physically weaker than me in the infusion room was a huge boost,” she added.

Balongo was lucky to have wonderful friends and family who gave her ongoing support. They encouraged her to keep up her active lifestyle, helped with meals, sent cards and notes, and even held a silent auction to raise money for her medical bills. “They wouldn’t let me lie around and feel sorry for myself,” she added.

The government had pledged to set up more chemotherapy and radiotherapy centres across the nation, but for many Kenyans the treatment in the private sector is far too expensive.

The organization is now appealing to the government to ensure all counties have cancer centers so that cases can be traced and attended to at early stages.

By Absalom Namwalo


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