Priscilla Wamuyu Mwai, 52 doesn’t describe herself as a cancer survivor but a victor.
In March 2018, Wamuyu felt a lump on her right breast during self-examination and she was worried.
The worry that it might be what she dreaded, kept her from visiting the hospital early but eventually she conquered her fears in October 2018 and the results from the hospital confirmed what she dreaded to hear; she had stage 3A cancer on her right breast.
“I heard about the terrible side effects one goes through after undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy and I was skeptical at first concerning whether I really had cancer. I went to three hospitals for diagnosis and alternative opinion but the results were the same.
“That made me to finally accept the diagnosis and after much deliberation, I chose life and decided to undergo treatment with faith that God is able to heal me as he says in his word,” narrates Wamuyu who is an evangelist at PCEA Kitengela.
She avers that her belief that cancer is a condition like any other and not a death sentence also played a key role in her healing journey.
“Once you accept that you are suffering from it and embrace treatment with a positive attitude that you will be healed, you will indeed beat it,” she said.
With her newly found positive attitude, she underwent mastectomy in November 2018 and started chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment in 2019 after her wound healed.
The chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions came with side effects like loss of hair, fatigue and feeling sick all the time but she was determined to fight for her life and is thankful that none of her other organs were affected.
Wamuyu underwent the whole treatment procedure in Kenya which cost her Sh3 million.
The mother of one is thankful to her family, the PCEA church and the friends who stood with her during her treatment journey in terms of financial and psychosocial support.
Since the treatment, Wamuyu has been taking the cancer tablets daily and goes for routine tests like cardiogram and mammogram monthly.
She is urging the government to subsidize the price of the cancer drugs as their price has since doubled.
“We were buying the drugs to be used daily at Sh45 per tablet but the price has doubled to Sh90 from last year. This makes it difficult for us to afford the daily dosage especially given the current economic conditions,” said Wamuyu.
She adds that cancer patients need a lot of psychological and financial support even after the chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions.
“The government should also engage community health promoters to create cancer awareness and provide psychosocial support to cancer patients as they need much support even after the session as that is when the support is mainly required,” said Wamuyu.
The grandmother of two says she has had to change her lifestyle ever since she was diagnosed.
“Health is wealth. I now consume less carbohydrates, more fruits and green vegetables and take plenty of water in addition to exercises like skipping and walking,” said Wamuyu.
The evangelist not only spreads the gospel of Christ but she also preaches about cancer awareness, acceptance and the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.
She advises everyone who has been diagnosed with cancer to take up treatment immediately and shun the belief that cancer is caused by witchcraft and can be treated using herbal concoctions given by witchdoctors.
Margaret Masara, the Director of Noonkopir Afya Foundation which creates cancer awareness reiterates that acceptance and support from family is key in ensuring healing.
“Once a person accepts that they are suffering from cancer, they will undertake treatment positively. The family’s support is also very important as they are the ones who will provide the psychosocial support, appropriate meals and a conducive environment for healing,” says Masara.
Masara is urging all women to frequently self-examine their breasts and undergo routine cancer screening for all types of cancer since early detection saves lives.
“Apart from creating awareness on the importance of routine cancer screening, the government should also provide prosthesis for free as for now one is retailing at Sh300,000 and it is not available in Kenya while the mastectomy bra retails at Sh2,000-3,000 per pair further increasing stigma for the cancer survivors,” said Masara.
The National Cancer Institute indicates that cancer is the third leading cause of death in Kenya with 4.6 Kenyans dying of the disease hourly or nearly 40,000 dying annually of cancer. The disease has demonstrated that it is in the country to stay as an average 47,000 cancer cases are diagnosed annually.
Prostate and cervical cancer are the most prevalent and experts say early screening is critical in fighting cancer.
By Diana Meneto