A Personal Account of how Cancer Drains

It all started out back in 2007 when my brother was in high school, on their closing day he was found lying unconscious on the ground and rushed to the hospital, nothing concrete was diagnosed and he was discharged from the hospital. We all forgot about the incident till a few years later when he was in University when it all came back to hunt us. I remember vividly like it was yesterday, it was the Christmas of 2010, my brother and I had been busy the whole morning preparing different meals for the day, we used to joke and tease each other a lot and after a sumptuous lunch, we all sat down as we caught up in what was happening in our lives.

He was a great story teller I must say, he narrated how he used to get sick while in school, the fainting, the painful headaches and the hospital visits, he narrated in such a manner, we all laughed, him included. After catching up, it rained and he went to lie down in his room. We were inseparable, after a few minutes I followed him and began teasing him, mostly about the girls he was chasing, that as the first time I witnessed it all. “It is happening again, this lightheadedness is not a good sign” he said, before I could even utter a word, he was clinching his head and screaming. At first, I froze, I had never seen someone go through such pain, I rushed out of the room and called on my dad who came rushing. We didn’t know what to do, it was raining outside, it was Christmas day most good Doctors were off duty and cell phones switched off. I sat next to me and held his hand, that’s all I could do, my eyes just closed and I whispered a prayer, “Dear Lord, ease his pain, Amen” five minutes later the pain was gone and he opened his eyes and he asked if it was over.

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Strength of a Woman: Victory Over Ovarian and Breast Cancer

1_nI was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and ovarian cancer five months later. The breast cancer was detected early enough so I only underwent radiotherapy since a mastectomy was thus not required.

Eight months before the ovarian cancer diagnosis, I had noticed a lump next to my belly button but did not give it much thought as it was not painful and disappeared three days later. My menstrual cycles became irregular and prolonged. The first doctor I visited said it was hormonal imbalance, which was common in teenagers my age. It resurfaced four months later but this time, it came with hours of intense abdominal pain and stomach bloating. I was generally fatigued and could not engage in half as much activities as I used to. I visited a doctor and after several scans and a biopsy, the cancerous tumours were detected.

Through sessions of chemotherapy and surgery for ovarian cancer, I was debulked and my appendix removed. Chemotherapy led to loss of  hair, major throat ulceration and inflammation. Eating and talking became a problem. The most difficult part of my experience was the realisation that I would not be able to give birth to my own children as a result of the treatment. Losing a uterus and ovary was never on my bucket list. It left me hollow.

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Akoth during #MoveCancerKE

 

 

 

“I know that tomorrow is truly not promised. That life can change in an instant, and that it is up to me to make a difference.”

 

 

 

 

It is so easy to give up. The pain was unbearable. I remember kissing my best friend goodbye days after my first surgery but she would not let me give up. I had such a solid support system that influenced my decision to face the disease head on. So I fought with all I had. I was not only fighting for myself but for those I love too. They became my drive. If I was going to die, it was not going to be because I gave up. My coping strategies included research and understanding my disease. The more I learnt, the more determined I was to beat it.

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Akoth, third from left, with her friends during free cancer screening event in Kisumu County.

Cancer completely changed my life. Owning it truly healed me, inside and out. It taught me to revel in the small little things, living life moment by moment. Each day is a blessing is a blessing that carries with it hope. Hope is essential to the will to live. I still go for scans and blood tests once in two months. Years down the line, I am here, I am alive, I am still fighting but nothing beats this gratitude I have.

~Akoth Otieno, Volunteer at Africa Cancer Foundation

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