Mrs. Monica Buluma has been through a team of five surgeons in the operation room, one week in the Intensive Care Unit, one week in the High Dependency Unit, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
26-year old Monica has endured all these to defeat cancer of the oesophagus that had started to cause discomfort in her meal times.
She used to visit clinics and had misdiagnosis for six months. By December 2011, the situation started getting worse as what started as a sore throat degenerated into difficulty in swallowing food.
“After the weighing machine pointer stood at 39kg from an initial 60kg, we decided to seek for treatment from bigger hospitals as the clinics were proving to have no remedy to my ailment.” Monica says.
She visited Mama Lucy Hospital where x-ray images revealed that she had a narrow oesophagus.
It is then that they sought medical attention at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), where Monica undertook an endoscopy test that revealed what other clinics had not been able to diagnose.
She was suffering from cancer of the oesophagus.
Fred Malingu, husband to Monica, says it was a shocker as cancer treatment is not affordable in Kenya.
“We had to look at the options we had because whoever was handling my case in the hospital enquired on how much I was earning from my job.” Fred narrates.
Either way, Fred was dismissed from his place of work a month later throwing him into a world of hopelessness but the will to sail through kept him in the right course of ensuring his lovely wife defeats the threat at hand.
The detected cancer was at stage two, which meant they needed to move swiftly to arrest it before it could advance to a higher stage that could mean advanced treatment or living with it.
“We decided to go local and eliminated out of country treatment and after seeking for information and advice we made a decision of having the surgery at Africa Inland Church (A.I.C.) Kijabe Hospital.” Fred says.
He adds that there were ill wishers who always discouraged him. “They used to ask me why I was doing all these yet there were many beautiful ladies out there who I could marry and be a happy man.” He said.
He says that they told him that ladies are capable of anything. “You can do all these and the lady moves on after the treatment.” Fred imitates them.
Fred says they had to rely on well-wishers to raise funds. After having seven fundraisers, they managed to raise half a million shillings for commencement of the treatment.
“By the time Monica was starting her chemotherapy, we had spent six hundred thousand and fundraising was still the major way of getting the bill cleared.” he says.
Fred says those who supported them financially started wearing out as the repeated financial request made them tired.
“They felt like we were using them as a way to our survival and this made me wish I was in a better financial position.” Fred says.
He says raising their two year old son was a challenge but he was determined to emerge a winner despite the test life was putting him through.
“We got a boost from Faraja Cancer Center who came to our rescue in terms of finances for the surgery and both therapies.” Fred says with a sigh.
Monica says she is glad the surgery was successful and the chemotherapy and radiotherapy were all went well.
“I am now cancer free and we can focus on raising our son. I could like to thank all our supports for without them I do not even know where we could start with my ailment.” She says with a big smile.
The treatment did not leave Monica without a lifetime mark. She says that she now has a shorter digestive system.
“I am forced to answer the call of nature sooner than normal and I have since been forced to use oil for all my cooking.” She says.
Monica says she has to feed on soft foods and lots of liquids as hard food will cause her digestive problems due to her shorter digestive system.
Fred says his focus now is to restore their family life to normal adding that the experience they have gone through could be a pointer to many more going through a similar dilemma.
He appeals to the government to set up facilities across the country to fast track cancer diagnosis to avoid its late discovery as well as prioritize palliative care for those whose diagnosis comes in late to enable them receive care from professionals in end of life.