Mis-diagnosis, delayed diagnosis – the dicey preliminaries before treatment

December 22, 2018 4:08 pm
Beatrice Supia is undergoing cancer treatment. Photo/WAMBUI WAWERU.

, NAIROBI, Kenya Dec 22 – Beatrice Supia was on the verge of being put under the usually very rigorous treatment for Tuberculosis when, in her own words, God intervened.

It all started off with a mild cough around the month of May this year which was more acute at night. “I’d wake up coughing especially if I slept on my right side, but I didn’t make much of it … I just turned over and slept on the opposite side,” said Beatrice.

But sometime in July, the coughing got worse; Beatrice went to the nearest clinic where she was given cough syrup and some antibiotics. This however, did not ease the coughing, so she sought treatment at Mulot, a trading centre, located about 25 kilometres from Bomet along the Bomet-Narok road.

It was there that they took some x-rays and did a sputum culture which showed that she had some fluid in her lungs.
The doctor then sent her to Tenwek Mission Hospital where she could get the fluid drained. It was at Tenwek that doctors discovered that the fluid in her lungs had some blood. Beatrice says this is what triggered the alarm bells for lung cancer.
Lung cancer is closely associated with smoking, but Beatrice has never smoked. “In fact, I was asked that question, even about my husband whether he was a smoker; but none of us have ever smoked.”

“From there, I went through a series of tests and checkups and I was even hospitalized for two weeks under medication trying to treat chronic pneumonia,” explained Beatrice. “The medication I was given really got me down, I could hardly walk. My condition appeared to be deteriorating … after three weeks, the doctor referred me to another specialist.

This time the doctor admitted Beatrice at The Nairobi Hospital to perform a thoracoscopy. “He said he wanted to further investigate her lungs because even after draining and medication, the fluid was increasing.

In a thoracoscopy, a thin, flexible viewing tube is inserted through a small incision in the chest. Fiber optic cables permit the surgeon to visually inspect the lungs, mediastinum (the area between the lungs), and pleura (the membrane covering the lungs and lining the chest cavity). A biopsy was to follow, and it took two weeks to get the results.

“By this time, Beatrice, a teacher at Limanet Primary School in Narok had missed the better part of the year’s second term. “I couldn’t even sleep; I coughed throughout … some point, I had up to 5 litres of fluid in my lungs.

When the biopsy results came back, it was confirmed that Beatrice had lung cancer. “Can you imagine how long it took to get that diagnosis and the dangers of mis-diagnosis,” she mused. “It was through the grace of God that I came out of that phase and started on the right path of treatment.”

Beatrice was diagnosed with Stage 3B lung cancer and she is currently undergoing treatment.

After three chemotherapy sessions Beatrice’s hair all fell off. “So long as my treatment is going well, I don’t mind about my hair … after all I’m Maasai and traditionally women in my community shave off all their hair,” she quipped.

When Beatrice started her treatment the coughing eased, and she felt much better … her lungs cleared and there was no more fluid. “I am very hopeful … my oncologist Dr Vijay knows what he’s doing, and he has been very encouraging. The love and support I’ve received from my family has also been very uplifting,” said Beatrice.

The cost implications of cancer treatment can be a deterrent to getting diagnosed and treat in time. Beatrice says most of the diagnosis was out of pocket which really depleted her family’s resources. “I don’t know how we would have managed without medical insurance … I have since exhausted my cover limit for this year but NHIF has catered for the chemo sessions.”

Dr Vijay says the prognosis for Beatrice’s treatment is good … after her chemotherapy sessions he will put her under medication for two years. “The doctor does not foresee any surgery and I will not need radiotherapy,” said Beatrice.

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