NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 24 – As Hollywood star Michael Douglas put it, “cancer didn’t bring me to my knees, it brought me to my feet.”
This is the energy that I notice as Waithera Kabiru heartily unleashes a dazzling smile despite the drip hanging from above her small bed to her right breast.
The smile does not resemble that of a patient, or for that matter of someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Waithera is full of life as she prepares herself to undergo a chemotherapy session. She has an iPad and a bible ready to take her through the long hours in a small cancer ward.
Thirty seven-year old Waithera says her smile is not just physical but from the deepest part of her heart.
According to her, despite being diagnosed with cancer, God has not made any mistake. “I have no regrets at all. I got this cancer for a reason. God has a purpose for me, to be able to help others, create awareness and help in raising funds for others.”
In fact, cancer has given her a second chance and the secret of this second chance is staying positive.
“On 12/12/12, one day after my 37th birthday, I underwent my first course of treatment – breast cancer surgery to remove the tumours found in my right breast and removal of my lymph nodes. I will never forget that date in my life. It is the day that marked the beginning of my Second Chance in Life,” Waithera explains.
Many people after being diagnosed with chronic illnesses allow the disease to take toll on their lives shattering the glimmer of hope that has kept many alive and in fact cancer free.
Despite the physical and emotional evils that the cancer has come with, Waithera is among the few of the likes of Robin Roberts who said, “It’s about focusing on the fight and not the fright.”
“Today I stand here, five months into my treatment and my life has never felt better or wholesome! Despite going through chemotherapy treatment since January, I have never felt this wholesome in my life! Yes, I have a mile long list of side effects, from hair loss, insomnia, constipation, lack of appetite, back pain, chronic fatigue, and the list goes on, but I can live with them. Every day I wake up and I value the small things in life and I am thankful for them. That’s cancer for you, it keeps you in perspective!” Waithera describes.
This is the attitude that has given the mother of two sons the energy, courage and determination of patiently going through chemotherapy sometimes for three to four hours every two weeks.
Waithera who describes herself as a digital diva, soccer mum and soon to be cancer survivor learnt about her condition in November last year.
She felt a lump on her breast by chance.
“I was not checking for a lump, I just happened to find a lump after taking a shower. I told my sister about it who told me to see an oncologist. I did not even know who an oncologist is. But I went to see the oncologist after that.”
Waithera who is former Head of Digital Media at Capital FM was quite aware of the numerous frequent campaigns reminding Kenyans to do self breast examination regularly.
But like most Kenyans, she did not take the reminders seriously. She knew of her condition when the cancer was at stage three.
According to the Breast Cancer Organisation, cancer tumours are described from stage I to IV with IV being the most advanced cancer.
Waithera is now advising Kenyans to take cancer awareness messages seriously because if cancer is discovered at early stages, it can be better managed than a discovery at late stages.
“I was in media…I got that information; I was aware of that, I did not do it consistently. Don’t be too busy to do it. I was fortunate I caught mine at stage 3. If I was doing it regularly I would have caught it very early. Do a self breast examination in the shower, do it once per month. Anyone can get cancer. Lifestyles have changed; not only those with a family history of cancer can get it,” she warns.
In her second chance, Waithera wants to talk to people and advocate for regular cancer screening and early detection.
Talking from experience, treatment of cancer is very expensive. In total, Waithera requires between Sh5 to Sh6 million for her treatment.
“My treatment involves surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The surgery costs from Sh500,000. The chemotherapy (I am doing eight cycles) every session costs between Sh30,000 to 70,000 per session. I am also on a drug that costs about Sh500,000. The radiation costs between Sh200,000 to 500,000.
Waithera is also on additional treatment of a drug that costs Sh279,000 for every dose and she requires 12 of them. “Cancer is very expensive to manage but I have put my trust in God that he will provide.”
Even as she struggles not to dose off after getting additional drip mixed with a sleeping pill, Waithera’s wish and prayer is that one day Kenyans will access affordable and quality cancer detection, treatment and management services.
On April 1st, during a campaign dubbed ‘Motor Hunt’ Sh420,000 was raised to aid Waithera to meet her medical costs.
A second funds drive, called ‘Family Affair Wellness and Music Festival’ will be held on May 1st, 2013 at the Carnivore grounds in Nairobi from 10am.
At a charge of Sh500 for adults and Sh200 for children above 5 years, guests will be entertained by the likes of Eric Wainaina, Daddy Owen, DJ Pinye and Capital FM’s DJ Adrian.
Cancer survivors will also be present to share their life experiences.
Free cancer screening services will also be made available.
You can visit her blog at 2ndchanceskenya.org