Living positively with cancer

February 4, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 4 – Most people equate cancer to a death sentence. But Dolly who was first diagnosed with the disease in September 2006 does not.  Her prayer as Kenya joins the rest of the world in celebrating World Cancer Day is that the government puts as much attention to cancer as it has in dealing with malaria and HIV/AIDS.

The bubbly character says she couldn\’t believe it when the doctor told her she had breast cancer. And like any other person reacting to bad news, Dolly broke down and cried.

Worse still, hers was the type that moves from one part of the body to another.

"Cancer is usually graded and mine was grade three which meant that it metastises.  I knew I was going to die and was very scared," she explains adding that no one else in her family has the disease.

"In November the same year, I had surgery and my right breast was cut off.  But some of my lymph nodes also tested positive for cancer and had to be removed," she says.

In February 2007, Dolly started her chemotherapy sessions and they also came with their own evils. She would get nausea and her hair started falling off. About seven months later, Dolly stopped her chemotherapy sessions and was put on radiation for three and a half weeks.

"I completed my treatment and for the next couple of years, I was alright until February 2010," she says.

The cancer was back.

"I had another lump; this time on my shoulder.  It was tested and came back positive for cancer so I had another six sessions of chemotherapy followed with radiation for two weeks.  In September 2010 I was tested again but I still had another cancerous lump," she says before drifting.

Fortunately, this cancerous lump was still on the upper right side of her body; it hadn\’t moved to any other place – which would be worse.

"So I have started chemotherapy again for the third time and I am now on my third cycle. This is where I am today and I think the fact that my doctors were honest enough to tell me the kind of cancer I was dealing with, made it easier to deal with the aftershock" she says.

"I can never say that I am healed and that\’s it," she says wishfully.

The fight has definitely left a dent in her financial pocket and Dolly says she wouldn\’t manage without her family and friends. Her support base has been her greatest inspiration.

"Chemotherapy is very expensive and I think I have spent over two million shillings so far. Sometimes I use Sh100,000 per month. It\’s a shame that no one sponsors cancer treatment and being so expensive, I guess those who can\’t afford it, die," she says with certainty.

Dolly who is also a mother of one has had to make adjustments to her life. From a full time logistics officer, the 42-year-old now only works part time. Her love for math is unquenchable and her job does it for her so she would never give it up.

She also tries to eat healthy and avoids fatty foods.

"Sometimes because of the chemotherapy sessions, I feel unwell and I can\’t operate. I have two chemo sessions per month and I have to travel from Gilgil to Nairobi for treatment so I can only work part time," she says.

Dolly who has a clean shaved head has embraced the life-changing illness and doesn\’t feel sorry for herself. She doesn\’t even notice the stares she probably gets from strangers.

"It\’s been five years now and I\’m still here; I\’m not dead. I have something to live for because everyone is scared of death – no one knows when they will be called. You can even die when you\’re sitting," she says.

She adds that her 10-year-old son also knows of her illness as she thinks it\’s important for cancer patients to tell their loved ones.

"When I told him he wouldn\’t understand and the children at school would tell him that I would die. But I tell him I\’m still here and people die when their time comes," she concludes.

Her spirit and energy has definitely rubbed off and it is what will keep her going.

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