I was diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer in 2019. My symptoms started from 2016-17 but took a few years to be diagnosed as cancer. Initially, when I ate something, my stomach would fill with gas and protrude. I also suffered mild pain in my lower abdomen. In 2018, I went to a local hospital and there, I was told it was ulcers. I was given medicines to cure ulcers, but the pain continued. I then visited another hospital where they treated me for both allergy and ulcers, suspecting I was allergic to some food, but the pain did not subside. I had H. pylori bacteria and was being treated for it. By 2019 my pain got more severe than the past few years, with additional symptoms of bloodstains in my stool. That’s when I went to another advanced hospital, where they diagnosed me with stage 4 cancer.
When I got the news that I got cancer, I was deeply affected by it. I remember I cried so much in the hospital. My Parents, My Mother, and other relatives were apprehensive about me. As in Kenya, it is your death sentence when you get cancer, and it is scarce to survive cancer. The thought of death ahead broke me emotionally. My doctor encouraged me to fight on.
I started chemotherapy in 2019. I was told that the best way to cure cancer would be surgery. The cancer had affected the colon of my large intestine. So, I had to use colostomy bags for nature’s call. After surgery, initially, I had to use a wheelchair for more than one year. Later, I started using a walking stick. I know with time, I will be able to walk straight. I no longer need to use a colostomy bag.
What kept me positive during the journey
After the diagnosis, there was a doctor who talked to me. He convinced me that cancer is not a death sentence. He told me that I could also survive cancer and try to give strength to myself. He said, “Do not panic, gain strength in your body, and when you go through chemotherapy and other treatment, you are going to heal.”
After two days of diagnosis, I strengthened myself and claimed that this cancer wouldn’t kill me. I gained the confidence to fight on.
My friends left me. There were no calls or interactions. I felt very lonely and left out but what you do is focus knowing that. You need a person with whom you can share and get encouragement to get well. That person for me was my mom. She is my best friend.
After surgery, I had to use a colostomy bag. A smell comes from those bags, so you feel ashamed when someone is near you. You have to regularly change the bags if you don’t feel comfortable around people. I fought the stigma through encouragement from people and my doctor.
Choices during the treatment
I have taken four chemotherapy cycles starting from 2019. At the start of 2020, I had surgery as well.
I was working and was also raising livestock. I had two cows, and I used to sell the milk. I also had goats. My mum used to work in a grocery shop. When my symptoms became severe, I had to stop working. Cancer treatment is expensive. My mum and I had to sell many of our belongings, including the cows, goats, TVs, gas cookers, anything you would find in a house.
I decided to open a Facebook account and use that forum on Facebook to encourage people and show that you can survive cancer and become victorious. I posted about how my life was progressing during and after the treatment.
I tried to do whatever kept me busy, like doing the house chores chopping the vegetables because I would be left at home alone after my mom went out.
I joined a group through Facebook where I met my two friends who helped me raise money for the medical bill. They were very supportive of me.
Lessons during the Cancer Journey
I think I had cancer to teach me life lessons. I learned to give myself strength and become hopeful towards life. I learned to have people around me who can encourage me to fight on whatever I am going through in my life instead of discouraging people. I was cooperative with the doctors during treatment and followed their advice.
Parting message to cancer survivors
Cancer is curable. In whatever stage you have been diagnosed with cancer, whether it’s stage 1, 2, 3 or 4, please do not call it an end until it is the end.
Believe that you will be healed, get the best treatment, and you are going to overcome cancer. No matter what you’re going through, whether the stigma or lifestyle changes, you give yourself strength, knowing that you will become victorious one day, and things will return to normal.