NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 26 – Forty-two year-old Patrick Magera is living with breast cancer.
Mr Magera says he noticed a painless lump on his left breast in 1985 but ignored it for 20 years. According to him, breast cancer only affected 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, it started becoming a bit alarming because it had grown from two milimetres to about two centimetres. By that time it had started affecting the skin around my chest; the skin was turning brown,“ he said.
“Any time I lifted something heavy, I heard a cracking sound on that side of my breast, that’s when I decided to see a doctor.“
Tests revealed what turned out to be devastating news – Mr Magera had breast cancer. “I was not taken aback, but decided that I had to face it; I had this hope in me.“
Mr Magera is one of ambitious personalities full of hope and determination to carry on.
“No one in my family line has ever had cancer, so where did this cancer came from?“ he wondered. He says being told you have breast cancer is not a mark of despair.
“The traumatising thing about cancer is not being told you have it, the cost of cancer drugs is the worst nightmare,” he says. His first chemotherapy session at Kenyatta National Hospital cost him Sh36,000.
A return cost him Sh66,000 for six weeks and yet another one left him Sh200,000 poorer.
Recently, doctors discovered that the cancer was spreading to Mr Magera’s lungs and he needed another Sh102,000 for medication. Sadly, though, the tumour is still spreading.
“The doctor prescribed a drug for me. I will require Sh335, 000 per session and I need two sessions. I know I won’t afford it. I don’t know where I will get this money from, whether I will get it or not, I don’t know, but I have hope,” he says.
To make ends meet, Mr Magera works at his friend’s electronic shop in Nairobi where he helps him repair electronics for a fee.
He says his church has been assisting him to conduct fundraisers to foot his medication. “It is not easy to be a burden, asking for money is very hard. I have held many harambees, family meetings and friends meetings, it is through their support that I am alive today,” he explains.
Mr Magera says he fears that the more money he needs to buy his drugs, the more difficult life becomes because he goes back almost to the same people who help him other times, “I know if I don’t get the drugs I will die. I don’t know how I will raise money for my drugs in future.”
Accepting he has breast cancer and struggling to make ends meet to raise money for treatment is not the only part of his painful life of managing a terminal illness.
Breaking the news to his 14 year-old daughter 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 a lot 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 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.
However, Mr Magera says he is happy for a very supportive wife and family through all the hardships in their life.
He strongly believes he would not have gone through this ordeal had he gone to hospital early enough. “If one is diagnosed with cancer at an early stage, the disease can be stopped.“
“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.“
It was not easy to get a man with breast cancer to go public about it, but Mr Magera was more than willing to open up, not for publicity, but to inform other men that they too can get breast cancer just like women.
He says it is his pleasure to inspire people with cancer to carry on and also to inform those who don’t have it to be observant of their health.
The Kenya Cancer Association estimates 82,000 cases annually with 21 percent of them being breast cancer.
Out of the 21 percent, one percent are men.
Last year the Aga Khan University Hospital Breast Cancer Unit said an increase of men with breast cancer had been confirmed.