First ever Relay for Life cancer event held in Kenya

Categories: Community Engagement.

The first ever Relay for Life (RFL) event took place in Kenya over the weekend at Nyayo Stadium with hundreds of participants from various quarters gracing the occasion.

The 24 hour event that kicked off at 2pm on Saturday organized by Kenya Cancer Association (KENCASA) was officially launched by the Health Cabinet Secretary Mr. James Macharia and involved a walk around the stadium for teams from various organisations for not less than 24 hours.

Mr. Macharia said that the event presented a platform for everyone to contribute towards fighting cancer.

“Concurring cancer requires the effort of each and every one of us. The government cannot fight cancer on its own,” said the Cabinet Secretary.

He called on all partners from the private sector to join hands in this fight adding that the Ministry was doing its best to create an enabling environment for such investments in the country.

Speaking at the event, KENCASA chair Mrs. Ann Korir said they are privileged to hold the event for the first time in Kenya saying that the event was for a worthy course.

Mrs. Korir said that cancer is a disease that has taken toll of most Kenyans with statistics indicating that over 70 persons die of cancer each day.

“Each year, 41,000 people are diagnosed with cancer and 21,500 die as a result of cancer and its related complications. These are our parents, relatives and friends and we need to do something about it. We need to change this course as Kenyans,” said Mrs. Korir.

She said that Breast and Cervical cancers kill more women compared to other cancers that affect Kenyan ladies making up half of all cancer cases reported yet they are preventable with early interventions.

“We want to tell the world that there is something we can do about cancer as a country,” she added.

KENCASA Vice Chairperson Mr. David Makumi said that the association was proud to welcome RFL to the country makings Kenya to feel as part of the global community.

Makumi said that the event is about cancer and that cancer affects real people. “When we talk about cancer patients, we should not forget that we are talking about our brothers and sisters who are our family members,” said Makumi.

He said that following increased awareness of the disease, more men are coming out to share their stories given that previously most people thought of cancer survivors being women.

George Owiti is one of the cancer survivors who had been misdiagnosed in several hospitals only to be diagnosed with Myeloid Leukemia a year later since onset of abdominal and pelvic pains.

Gracing the RFL event, Owiti said that he and other survivors peg their survival on the success of such events.

The event saw cancer survivors don purple t-shirts with the message SHUJAA (survivor) while other participants had a variety to choose from white, orange and black colors.

The former Minster of Public Health and Sanitation, Beth Mugo who is a cancer breast survivor and current Nairobi County nominated Senator encouraged women to go for checkups and screening to avoid late diagnosis.

She is also the current President for the Council for Economic Empowerment of Women in Africa’s People.

Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) Executive Director Dr. Zipporah Ali encouraged the public to make use of palliative care services in Kenya.

“Palliative care is about living, and not about dying as most of you believe. Cancer patients need palliative care services from the time of diagnosis. Palliative care helps address patient’s symptoms whether physical, social, emotional or spiritual.  Palliative care is a friend, not an enemy,” she said.  

Various organisations offered free cancer screening at the venue to give participants a chance of free checkup.

There was great entertainment at the venue with lots of musicians, artisans, dancers, comedians and top media personalities also gracing the occasion.

At the fall of darkness, a special session dubbed ‘luminaria’ took place with those who had lost loved ones to cancer lighting a candle in a luminaria bag with a message of love to commemorate their departure.

They lined along the track as well as at the center of the stadium displaying messages of love to relatives and friends who succumbed to the disease.

The luminaria ceremony that lasted about 45 minutes ended with the lighting up of the stadium with floodlights and the relay continued throughout the night with teams having their members on the track in turns till its closure on Sunday at 2pm.

The 24 hour Relay for Life event sought to raise 300 million shillings for treatment of at least 20 adults and 10 pediatrics cancer patients from each of the 47 counties.