42-year-old Patrick Mageria is one of the many men in Kenya suffering from breast cancer.
He says he noticed a painless lump on his left breast in 1985 but ingored it for 20 years, since he thought breast cancer only affects women.
“I took note of the swelling but I didn’t care much about it. It went on growing bigger slowly by slowly. By 2004 that’s when it started to become a bit alarming because it had grown from 2 millimetres to about 2 centimetres. By that time it had started eating the skin around my chest, the skin was turning brown,“ he recounts.
“Any time I lifted something heavy I heard a cracking sound on that side of my breast, that’s when I decided to see the doctor.“
When he went to the doctor he was told that the breast had to be tested for breast cancer.
“I went for surgery. The whole breast was removed and after two weeks the tests on it confirmed I had breast cancer,” he says.
Mageria continues, “I was not taken aback, because sometimes I thought it was cancer and at other times I thought no, it can’t be. I said it is ok, I had to face it, I had this hope in me.“
Mageria is one of those ambitious personalities full of hope and determination to carry on despite how hard life seems to be on his side.
“At first it came as a surpise, getting breast cancer. No! I am a man. I had knowledge about breast cancer, but I never thought or imagined it affects men too, I knew it is a woman’s disease,“ he says.
“Why I even wondered more is that no one in my family line has ever had cancer, so where did this cancer come from?” he asks.
He says being told you have breast cancer is not the end of the shock and torture in a survivor’s life.
“The traumatising thing about cancer is not being told you have it, the cost of cancer drugs is the worst nightmare.” For example;
His first chemotherapy at Kenyatta National Hospital cost him Sh36,000. Unfortunately, he had a recurrence which he says cost him Sh66,000 for six weeks. Last year, he had another recurrence that took another Sh200,000 – just for his drugs.
After the doctors discovered the cancer was spreading to his lungs some few weeks ago, he needed another Sh102,000 to purchase the cancer drug that stops the spread.
Unfortunately after another check up last week, the doctors found the disease was still spreading.
“About last week, the doctor prescribed a drug for me. I will require Sh335, 000 per session and I will have two sessions. I know I won’t afford it, I dont know where I will get this money from, whether I will get it or not, I dont know; I have hope,“ says Mageria.
Accepting he has breast cancer and struggling to make ends meet to raise money for his treatment is not the only part of his painful life.
Breaking the news to his 14-year-old child was the most painful time of his life.
“One day my daughter asked me, ‘If you stop taking the drugs will you die daddy?’ I used to vomit alot when I took the cancer drugs, and she used to see me vomiting immediately after swallowing the tablets.”
So I told her, yes I will die if I don’t take the drugs, she cried and I was felt very sad. I was very moved and for sometime I did not know what to tell her, but after she grew older I explained to her what the problem was,” he says.
But luckily Mageria says he is happy since his family is very supportive – even despite the daily hardships in their life.
Whenever Mageria talks there is one thing he keeps repeating, “I lost my breast because I realised it was breast cancer when the disease had already progressed. If one is diagonised with cancer at an early stage, the disease can be stopped and one does not have to lose his or her breast like me,“
He tells men, “Please go for check up, I know men like doing things for other people and never take time to look after their health, it is better to be checked early enough and not to wait until one feels pain or is very sick.”
The Kenya Cancer Association says the government last year recorded an estimated 82,000 cancer cases annually with 21 percent of them being breast cancer.
Out of the 21 percent, 1 percent of the cases are in men.
Last year the Aga Khan University Hospital Breast Cancer Unit said an increase of men with breast cancer had been confirmed.