High school teacher battling cancer and HIV amid contracting COVID-19

By , K24 Digital
On Fri, 5 Feb, 2021 14:00 | 2 mins read
Sarah Muthoni Mwangi is an HIV and COVID-19 survivor. [PHOTO: ELIUD MWANGI | K24 DIGITAL]
Sarah Muthoni Mwangi is an HIV and COVID-19 survivor. [PHOTO: ELIUD MWANGI | K24 DIGITAL]
Sarah Muthoni Mwangi is an HIV and COVID-19 survivor. [PHOTO: ELIUD MWANGI | K24 DIGITAL]

Sarah Muthoni Mwangi, a secondary school teacher in Nakuru County, is battling cancer and HIV amid the wide-spread COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya.

Muthoni, 47, has been living with HIV for 23 years. She realised she caught the virus in 1997, shortly after her husband’s death.

In 2013, Muthoni, an English and Literature teacher at Afraha High School, was diagnosed with anal cancer that had spread to her labia. It had taken her two years to learn that she was living with the disease.

“The cancer first manifested in the form of warts in 2011; one was in the anal opening and the other one was on my right labia,” she told K24 Digital.

“We did not realise immediately that the warts were cancerous. I was occasionally diagnosed with Haemorrhoids, when I visited hospitals,” she said.

“In 2013, a new doctor whom I visited over the persistent warts problem advised that I consult a surgeon.

“It was during my visit to a surgeon that a cancer test was recommended.

“But before I could take the tests, I underwent 27 surgical operations to remove the warts from my anal area. After the exercise was successful, I thought the warts problem had ended.

“Later 2013, the warts appeared on my right labia. I went back to the surgeon, who conducted a series of tests. The results came back indicating I had cancer cells.

“Shocked, I decided not to undergo chemotherapy because I feared the effects of the procedure, based on what I had heard many people say.

“I, thereafter, took the results to a medical clinic in Eldoret where I usually go for my HIV treatment.

“A surgery was conducted to remove the warts, and a subsequent test indicated that I was cancer-free. I celebrated, but much later in 2013, the warts recurred on my left labia. A subsequent cancer test indicated that I had the disease.

“I completed my chemotherapy on December 18, 2020, though tests indicate I am not free of cancer yet.”

Later December 2020, Muthoni was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“I couldn’t imagine that I could contract COVID-19. I was taken to the Nakuru Provincial General Hospital, where I was admitted for seven days. I was on oxygen support for one night. Now, I can tell a story about COVID-19. The earlier you get the [COVID-19] test, the better [for your treatment],” she advised.

Muthoni says the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) and a teachers’ insurance scheme came in handy in footing her medical bills.

Muthoni says her HIV viral load is extremely low to the point it can’t be detected. She attributes that to frequent medical check-ups and strict observance of antiretroviral prescription.

She is hopeful that she will triumph over cancer as well.

“My adult daughter has been of great importance in my journey of fighting the diseases,” said the grandmother of one.

Dr. Cosmas Koech, a Nakuru-based physiotherapist, advises Kenyans to embrace regular screening for cancer to allow early detection and prompt treatment of the disease.

“Should you feel that you are having a breast that appears abnormal or a body part that appears not to work normally, go for check-up immediately,” he told K24 Digital.

“Cancer spreads very fast, and that poses a big challenge to its treatment,” said Dr. Koech.