Cancer has not only attacked the old but the young alike.
25-year-old Lucy Akinyi has experienced the effects of cancer firsthand .
Her second born, Velma Achieng’, 8, has cancer. “Velma has Nephroblastoma, a type of cancer that affects the kidneys mostly in children.
It all started ten months ago when she was in Class One. “She came back from school with a swollen stomach,” Lucy narrates. She and her husband rushed her to a nearby clinic, but they could not help her ease the excruciating pain. It was then that they took her to Homa Bay County Teaching and Referral Hospital.
“While there, we were referred to Nairobi for further treatment, but even before then, we had a really tough time getting the right diagnosis. So, by the time we got a diagnosis, her cancer had advanced to Stage Four,” the mother of three sighs.
The diagnosis hit them hard. “I had previously just heard of what cancer did, and how it affected families and it was not pretty. We had to leave Kisumu and come to Nairobi to get treatment,” she says.
Armed with her last born child, who is 8 months old, and the cancer patient, Velma, Lucy left her first born with her father.
“She had to drop out of school because she missed so many classes,” she says. The Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital became their second home.
“We stayed, weeks even months there. In fact, we have just come from there. But lucky for her, the hospital has a system in place for such instances,” she smiles as she looks at Velma who has picked up some paper and pen to draw, something that she loves doing.
Velma now goes to school at the hospital. “I have made new friends, and I like learning. I want to be a sugarcane farmer when I grow up,” Velma says after deep thought.
Through it all, Lucy has had to put her interests aside to see to it that her daughter underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. “Now I am dedicated to defeating cancer for her sake.
“The past ten months have seen my girl lose weight. Her physique has become frail, she has become smaller and weaker and I feel really bad when I look at her,” she sighs.
Velma’s lost her hair and you can mistake her for a boy.
“It caused a financial strain. My husband repairs motorbikes in Kisumu,” she notes.
They had to sell their only cow to meet the costs that NHIF could not. “It has not been a smooth sail. There is a language barrier even when we come for treatment here and she is on a special diet that is expensive to foot,” Lucy says.
Faraja Centre has, however, helped the family by providing nutrition to her as well as the therapies she has needed over time.
At first, it was just Lucy and her husband but because Velma needed her as her primary caregiver, she had to go to Eldoret with Velma, where she received treatment.
“When we went back home, my husband had brought in another woman, and I understood because my husband and I had stayed apart for so long.
“Cases where cancer tears families are common. They travel long distances to come to Nairobi specialized treatment, and when that happens, the men left at home take in second wives,” Philip Ouma, a medical doctor, says.