October is breast cancer awareness month. We will be highlighting how students have been affected by a disease that is increasingly affecting younger people than before and what some students are doing to fight it.
To start us off, we bring you the story of Gillian, a USIU student who bravely fought off cancer and is now a gallant campaigner against this deadly disease that is now killing more people than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined, according to the Ministry of Medical Services.
One look at her would not betray that she weighed 28 kilograms at one time. You wouldn’t also tell that she rebounded from the last stage of cancer and is now fully recovered from a point where death was a few days away. Meet Gillian Mutinda, a student at USIU who has turned from cancer victim to a crusader against the disease.
“I know how it feels to be about to die. People all around me in hospital were dying and I was afraid to sleep, lest I did not wake up,” says Gillian.
When she was diagnosed with bone cancer on July 17th 2008, her whole world caved in and all her dreams and ambitions seemed to go up in smoke. Gillian had been contending with sharp pain on her left arm for a while. When the pain became too much to bear, she sought medical attention.
She was misdiagnosed and was told she was suffering from mild arthritis or normal sprain. But the pain became acute even after the medication. Gillian and her family opted for a second opinion at the Agha Khan Hospital where she received the earth shattering news.
Just fresh from high school, Gillian was bubbling with excitement at the prospect of joining university. She had already applied to a university in Australia and had been admitted to pursue Law. Just a month before she was to fly to Australia, she found out she had cancer and her plans ground to a halt.
“My experience taught me that family is the most important thing one can have. Most of my friends abandoned me and even made very mean comments about me,”
Amidst the whole storm, her family stuck with her and supported her. Her mother was her pillar of strength. Her courage buoyed her and gave her the will to battle the disease. Her mom would stay awake through out the night, seated next to Gillian’s bed and travel with her when she went abroad to seek better medical care.
“I owe my mother my life. She was strong even when I had lost all the strength and will to live. She encouraged me and kept raising my spirits over and over again,” says Gillian.
The treatment period was a torturous experience. It was not made any easier by an orthopedic who had decided that Gillian’s arm had to be amputated. After seeking another opinion, the family decided to go for chemotherapy and then have surgery later, if it came to that. The first dose of chemo left her extremely weak and drained. A day before she began her treatment, she decided to undo her hair because she knew it would come off anyway. To her surprise she could pull it off without any pain.
“I remember I was in the bathroom yanking my hair off and my mother was watching. I could see the pain in her eyes but I just continued pulling off my hair which offered no resistance,” she recounts.
When the treatment in Kenya did not seem to be working, she was transferred to a hospital in India. The doctors there were exceptionally kind and professional and she showed remarkable progress within a short span.
Her situation was so bad that her weight dropped to 28 kgs. It was then decided that she flies back to India.
After three months, she came back to Kenya but her condition worsened when a doctor gave her the wrong dose of chemo. Her situation was so bad that her weight dropped to 28 kgs. It was then decided that she flies back to India.
In India, her state improved considerably though she had to stay in the country for almost a year. There were a lot of trying times during her treatment period but there is one stands out clearly.