I have been diagnosed with cancer

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BY DAVID S.O NALO, CBS

On Sunday, 5th February, 2012 afternoon at about 4.00 p.m, I was resting with my family at home. I started feeling some discomfort around my stomach and a general body malaise. I also felt weak and so dehydrated. After a while, I decided to call a doctor friend who accepted my request and came home so I could share with him my experience. Fortunately, after a short examination, he established that I was very sick and there was urgent need to see a doctor on the same day i.e. 5th February 2012.

What warranted the doctor friend to recommend that I need to visit a doctor, was informed by the oral observation that (a) the swelling across my stomach was abnormal; (b) the level of dehydration (c) pale eyes; and (d) the general body malaise. These were purely drawn from oral observation and a few interrogations. Observations further showed general lack of appetite, in the lower parts of the lungs, stomach and swollen lymph nodes along both sides of the neck. These were of major concerns to the friend doctor.

On the basis of these, we did indeed visit Nairobi Hospital and after doing the normal procedure, I was admitted. Indeed the lead doctor observed no variations between the friend doctor and what he found. Consequently, three distinct lines of action were identified for execution the same evening.

First, I was put on IV drip immediately and eventually consumed 15 bottles to regain my water level and kidney functions to manage the high dehydration. The second action was to mobilise a team of doctors to support the process to run special lines of tests relevant to their areas as identified by the lead doctor. This was key due to support needed in these circumstances. Third action was to run a series of diagnostics tests on 6th February, 2012. Therefore, I dedicated 24 hours for this essential service which covered a chest X-ray, lower abdomen scan; Biopsy of the neck gland; the endoscopy; bone marrow test and others including a series of blood tests.

These three actions were executed simultaneously on the 6th, 7th and 8th February, 2012. In the evening of 8th February 2012, and indeed in a total of 24 hours of going through the tests, all tests were done/completed except the biopsy and bone marrow. With most diagnostic tests ready on the 8th February 2012, the doctors concluded that action required to be taken.

Perhaps when public doctors go on strike and demand for better services, they have a point to make. A look at our public hospitals and we should appreciate that much has been done, but the ongoing tension in the public sector, points to the fact that we must sort out the sector. They need laboratory technicians with tools of work, nurses with facilities to perform: this may have not been achieved with some degree of efficiency but with commitment and dedication to the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, these are commitments we have made and should assure the public that we are duty bound to address them with resource limitations.

Back to the diagnostic story, it emerged that they captured similar tests on the allergy and more. On 8th February, treatment started after counseling and necessary consultations concluded between the family and the doctors. The result of the tests revealed that I had “Hodgkin Limforma” an early stage of cancer.

At this stage, expecting to hear more results on “allergy”, and hearing this, I gave Dr. Nyikal a straight look into his eyes without a question – but inside, I was like, “you brought me here to be told that I have cancer?” Quickly, he understood the unstated question but the deep look and his reply was “David, It is manageable”. Indeed he clarified that given all forms of cancer, I will comfortably choose “Hogkin Limforma” because it is manageable and it can be treated. Then I got a sigh of relief. I also learnt that there are several stages of cancer, and we can live with any stage but each must be timely identified, diagnosed and managed.

This is why Kenya needs cancer facilities like yesterday. I challenge our Parliament, the Treasury and Revenue Allocation Committee to view this as a priority for every county if possible or a group of counties clustered together. Between 5th February and 5th March, 2012 the Doctor did not only succeed to run a set of critical diagnostics, but they also did a set of four chemotherapy successfully and the most challenging was the fact that I had to go through chemotherapy treatment when I had not known before and secondly to accept the word “cancer” in my life.

In life, there are several stages of cancer, there are many patients at different stages and can have lived with the disease for many years.

But what is the moral of this story? First many of us do not accept our disease condition, so we live in denial and do not seek medical attention in good time. At times, the access to medical services may simply not be available especially the public Medicare. But even when we do, the diagnostics may not be in time leading to inaccurate or suboptimal results with suboptimal treatment.

This does not help the patient, and the disease may advance, become complex and lead to early death. Many cases of cancer, diabetes etc fall in this category many of which we are victims. Alternatively, the diagnostics may just be narrow and is not broadened enough to capture other potential ailments that need to be captured in the diagnostics – here treatment becomes impossible.

Finally diagnostics can be accurate, broad, including oral and laboratory, the right team and materials and equipment, and hence possibility of accuracy is high thus timely, leading to the accurate treatment and prolongation of life.

When I became ill and got hospitalized in Nairobi Hospital between 5th February and 5th March 2012, little did I know that this would be my experience. I truly learnt that when in doubt of your disease, counseling helps. In the case of the latter, I have learnt that diseases can be identified, diagnosed and treated.

I was also able to meet more than 10 patients of “Hodgkin Limforma” and other forms of advanced cancer who came to give me support in various forms. These people were a major source of inspiration and energy in addition to the doctors. In this context, I thank Prof. Peter Nyong’o, Prof. Ntiba, Mrs. Mary Onyango and Jerry Okungu, at least the few that permitted me to share their own experiences. These people are going about their business as usual but most important they advocate on awareness on cancer. They need all the support and that is why I add my voice to the process.

I advise that it is critical to seek medical attention at the earliest opportunity. Avoid fear to overcome the challenge and move on. Above all, have faith, determination and believe that fear is not meant to stop you from moving on but to enable reorganise your strategies.

I highly congratulate the following team at Nairobi Hospital; Dr. Elly Ogutu; Dr. James Nyikal; Surgeon Baraza; All the Angels (Nurses) and the overall staff.

I wish in a special way to thank the following for their inspirational support and encouragement during the process:

i. Dr. James Nyikal;
ii. Dr. Kioko – Kidney Specialist;
iii. Dr. Elly Ogutu;
iv. Prof. Habinya;
v. Dr. Gikonyo;
vi. Dr./Surgeon/pathologist Baraza;
vii. Dr. Minus (Anesthetist);
viii. Dr. Suni, and;
ix. Bone Marrow Specialist

The 15 Nurses under their Matron and the continuous improvement teams also deserve special mention.

Finally, it was amazing to be always woken up at 4.00 p.m. by laboratory technicians drawing blood for tests to monitor how I was doing medically and clinically.

In addition, I give special thanks to my colleagues for the moral support, wise counseling, spiritual support and material assistance. Finally, was the powerful spiritual network driven by network of faithful friends that unleashed a new life of hope in me. If you have gone through an experience in life, like the biblical Job (Ayub), and you have nothing to share with others, then you learnt nothing. I learnt something special and I have chosen to share it.

(Mr Nalo is the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of East African Community)

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  • Johnngure

    Get well sir and thanks for sharing the information. Many people need this. I wish the government and parliament can allocate more resources to cancer diagnosis and treatment. I have witnessed more recent deaths as a result of cancer than AIDS

  • Ndwara

    I wish you quick recovery sir. I had my first encounter with Nalo when he was in ministry of industrialization and what he initiated at KEBS , KIRDI, KEBS and Kenya national jua kali association was a breakthrough to industrialization as far as vision 2030 is concerned. Though the project  was uplifted by his successor, it is sad that the current Ps was not briefed on the achievements and has taken the initiative to a different direction and it will definitely collapse. But we know God will give you strength to help other kenyans and initiate other development project.   

  • Amazing Writing

    Excellent article, what is oral observation ? 

  • NM

    Sadly it seems that we have to wish illness to befall our countries leadership for them to take healthcare in Kenya seriously. I lost a dad to bile duct cancer and his pain and suffering would have been avoided had the doctor’s chosen to take his annual check ups and illness seriously. He did annual check ups at Nairobi hospital and the cancer was never identified until when it was at Stage 4. He passed on 5 months later at that same Nairobi hospital. Interestingly he was treated by one of the doctors mentioned up there by the good PS and unfortunately I have nothing good to say about the quality of service rendered. They were more interested in getting their money and we kept hitting brick walls when we queried on his health status. The doctor, very respected in gastro illness dismissed my dad as being too old (77 years) and would die anyway and often queried why we’re spending so much money taking him to Nairobi Hospital or putting him into chemo or inserting a stent to redirect his bile juice instead of letting him die at home in ‘peace’. Thankfully, the problem was never the finance but our determination to save our dad from pain and perhaps hope for more time with him in health. I beleive we would not have been in that situation if: 1. the hospital’s annual check ups were as rigorous as required to nip the cancer in the bud, 2. that the doctors gave him the same attention that Mheshimiwa here got. The clock cannot be turned back but I wonder, should we pray for our leaders to be struck with a cross section of ailments for them to understand just how poorly we are doing as a country in health care?

    Get well PS, be grateful that since you’re a ‘mheshimiwa’ you’ll probably get better attention and treatment than us the ‘wanjikus’ requiring treatment for cancer in our hospitals. Remember to think of many others who cannot afford or whose names do not ring a bell struggling to get medical attention in our hospitals. 

  • Debzkahash

    Its amazing how fast u recovered . i wish’u well. The truth is its a nightmare to be diagnosed with cancer in this country especially when you do not have a health insurance or cant fly out to seek the treatment. of late we have been hearing our leaders tell us how they beat cancer and that is good. I urge them to improve healthcare for the wananchi so that they too can  have an experience to share.. 

  • Eveogutu

    Quick Recovery Bwana PS. You are such a courageous man. The Journey to EAC integration needs your gusto and energy and I know God will grant you the peace and serenity at this trying moments. Working with you has been an eye opener to me.

  • N.K.RONNOH

    KENYA HAS 2 TRIBES, THE HAVES AND THE HAVE NOTS. MR NALO ,YOU ARE QUITE FORTUNATE BECAUSE YOU CAN AFFORD THE BEST TREATMENT AVAILABLE BECAUSE YOU BELONG TO THE FORMER..

    COME TO THINK OF THE HAVE NOTS WHO CANNOT AFFORD TREATMENT AND THEY ARE FORCED TO DIE EARLY BECAUSE OF THE ATTITUDE OF THE HEALTH CARE GIVERS WHICH IS WORSE THAN THE DISEASE.

    THE LIST YOU HAVE PRESENTED TO GIVE GRATITUDE WOULD HAVE BEEN A BLACK LIST OF THE HEALTHWORKERS WHOSE FRUSTRATIONS PUSHES ONE TO AN EARLY DEATH.

    THIS IS WHY WE NEED A NEW POLITICAL DISPENSATION , ONE WHICH WILL FOCUS RESOURCES TOWARDS A  HEALTHY NATION AND NOT TOWARDS POLITICAL PRESERVATION AND GREED.

    I DONOT KNOW HOW CANCER DIAGNOSTIC EQUIPMENT WOULD HAVE BEEN BOUGHT USING THE SHUTTLE DIPLOMACY FUNDS THAT TOOK US TO DESTINATIONS AS DISGRACEFUL AS GADDAFIS TENT.

    OUR PRIORITIES ARE TO SAY THE LEAST BARBARIC.

  • Dadtu

    This is Princes Nasimiyu’s experience from her facebook page. She is currently in london undergoing further treatment. Nasimiyu is that brave 9 yr old girl.  who shared her experice with kenyans on the print and electronic media some time back

    .Princess Rose Nasimiyu
    when
    i was in Kenya, I was diagonised with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer and
    started treament of the same which was 16 cycles of chemotherapy which
    here they call 8cycles. before i left kenya, i had done 10cycles.here i
    did more 2 which was twelve, i then went for scans to see how far the
    desease had gone.when the results came out no illness was ditected and
    medication was stopped, however they noticed
    a node under my armpit which i went for opereation and found out that i
    had another type of cancer not hodgkins and this was Anaplastic Large
    cell lymphoma cancer and for two weeks they had stopped the treatment
    the nodes had spead to my lungs and near the heart,so worring isn’t it?
    Then the Docs here went a head and tasted the blocks of the nodes taken
    in kenya for the first operation. Both the nodes tasted Anaplastic
    cancer which means i was being treated for the wrong illness i had
    anaplastic from the very beggining. now i started afresh treatment in
    January which am will be untill August on weekly basis. It’s been hard
    for me and my mum on top of other things but we are still strong
    together and we are determined to beat this deadly disease. I miss home, hopefully i will come before i finish my treament.I thank God am fine and going to school like any other kid xx

  • Elle Jelani

    The correct spelling is Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

  • Odhiambo Charles

    Wuod Tura, you will be back on your feet soonest in Jesus name…..

  • Rach

    Get well soon Mr. Nalo. I lost 2 uncles in less than a year; both to cancer. My dad is the last surviving brother in that family and since then he has been obsessed with healthy living. He also goes for the full annual check-ups but at Agh Khan and i hope they check him well enough to avoid what happened to NMs dad… My uncles were treated for amoeba, typhoid, ulcers etc and only on their death beds were they diagnosed with cancer… I pray that the hospitals in Kenya improve n that docs recognise that these are peoples lives n they should not do the guessing game on them!!!

  • Macduff

    Best wishes Bwana Obonyo.
    Are you still coming to Nebraska, give me a holla
    Macduff

  • Doc Odotte

    Indeed a wake up call to revamp our healthcare system. Wish you all the best in your fight, we are standing by you and cheering you on as you wage the battle. Get well soon thura

  • ole selema

    its our turn fellow youth to institute an integrity, transparency, justice and reliable leadership in our days. let not nobody despise your youth. baraka.

  • alice wairimu kigondu

    Time for youth to take over leadership has come and we as youth should spread the gospel of peaceful co existence now that we are headed to the general elections. we look forward to serve our counties so as to empower the youth.

  • its tyme for us as youths to bring change that will transform our countries leadership

  • dennis kamunya

    we need to take charge as todays leaders and not tomorrow which never comes.kudos 4 the gud work u r doin.

  • william aruga

    youths ave been given a raw deal since let them shine.

  • levil owino

    am not seeing the online application form plz someone help

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