Zimbabwean hospice works with traditional healers to support care

Categories: Care.

The Island Hospice and Healthcare Bulawayo team.

My name is Maggie* and l work at a local government school where l have been teaching for the past 10 years. Two years ago I felt a lump in my right breast. At that time I was pregnant and l was convinced it was the hormones acting up. After delivering my baby I was seen at a local hospital and a biopsy was taken and l was told that l have cancer of the breast. I told my mother and we agreed to consult and get treatment from a traditional healer as we believe that I was bewitched.

A year later my breast had ballooned and burst and the wound was septic and smelling bad. The pain was unbearable.  It was grinding on my back and right arm… it was just too much. The breast felt like it was on fire. I was worried and anxious about the fast growth of the breast and development of the wound.

My aunt from Binga, who had not seen me since l was diagnosed with breast cancer, visited me. She took me to Island Hospice & Healthcare (Island), where she had read about their services from the internet. There l was able to talk about the pain, and my fear of the rapid disease progression. I was given pain relief medication and the palliative care nurse booked me to be seen by an oncologist at Mpilo hospital in Bulawayo.

The Island team visited me at home on a weekly basis. They spoke with my mother who was given an opportunity to express her concerns about the cancer. The Island team also emphasised the importance of pain relief and kept me as comfortable as possible. My mother was taught how to clean and dress the wound. The odour from the wound made me feel rotten and I felt very uncomfortable when my family and friends came into my room. The odour is much better though the wound is still big.

Although I still visit the traditional healer for the removal of the enchantments that brought the cancer, Island continues to support me with pain control. Most health professionals tend to shun people who visit traditional healers, but Island has been supportive. I have been able to share my experiences with Island about the rituals that I go through to appease our ancestors. Island engaged with the traditional healer to explain to him about the pain medication that l need to continue taking. They work together to help me.

Island has helped me to understand that I am not being cured, but I have gone for radiation to help reduce the pain and help with the management of the wound.

The counselling sessions I receive from the social worker from Island have helped confront some of my baggage. It helped me reconcile with my father that abandoned us when we were young. I am grateful that he has come and is very supportive. He comes regularly to visit me and has also provided financial support. My bitterness towards my father has lessened.

My husband has since paid part of the bride price, which he had not done for the ten years we have lived together. This is an important event for me. My father’s relatives and my husband’s relatives have also been supportive and I am glad to have a family around me. When I die my children will have family to support them.

My children now know that I am ill and not going to get better. They usually have many questions but I am happy that we are able to talk and address most of the concerns with the support of the Island team.

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