My name is Rose Chiedo. I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in July 2013.
The initial symptoms were bleeding in between periods, lower abdominal pains and discharge.
After diagnosis at a private hospital, I was referred to Kenyatta National Hospital’s gynaecological department. I went there hoping to be treated immediately, but I was wrong. It took 4 months of frequent tests to determine the best course of treatment and management. Finally, they advised that I undergo Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy and was immediately referred to the cancer treatment centre. I enquired when I could begin my treatment but was informed that there were over 1,000 people on queue for radiotherapy. That was in November 2013 and by this time, I was bleeding heavily.
The wait continued till February 2014 when I began my radiotherapy and chemotherapy sessions after continuous bleeding for four months which was now treated as an emergency.
The first challenge I got with the treatment was finances. While they ran tests and other investigations at Kenyatta National Hospital, I spent about Ksh. 40,000 which my brother catered for since I had no job but was depending on a small business I had started. While on queue to begin my treatment, I spent over Ksh. 20,000 on medicines to control my bleeding. The money was raised by my family and friends.
When I began my treatment, I had to spend Ksh. 500 per session for Radiotherapy for 25 days and Ksh. 5,000 per week for Chemotherapy sessions for 5 weeks. By then, my brother couldn’t raise all the money and hence, we appealed for further financial support from our extended family. Thankfully, we managed to raise the money needed for the full course of treatment.
My other challenge was the side effects experienced as a result of the radiotherapy and chemotherapy sessions. They included nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, loss of hair, dehydration, anaemia and even had several wounds in my body.
The most important lesson I learned during my treatment is that the first step to treatment is acceptance. One must accept the situation at hand however difficult and then proceed to declare and be determined to fight it.
Secondly, one must be aware of how they are always feeling. I like to say that ‘I am my first doctor’ as I know better how I am feeling and hence I can consult with my doctor and share how I feel to enable him/her to help me during my recovery process. It is my responsibility to keep consulting when I don’t feel fine instead of keeping quiet and wishing the challenges away.
Thirdly, you must be inquisitive. Every doctor’s visit must be maximised so that you understand fully whatever you are going through, any lifestyle or diet changes you may require to go through as well as any other information you can equip yourself with during your treatment and recovery process.
Piece of Advice
Early diagnosis is very important and necessary because prevention is better than cure and if detected early, cancer can be treated.
In my case, I was diagnosed when it was at stage 2B.
Constant screening is important. Cervical Cancer for instance is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which can be detected and dealt with early before it becomes full blown cancer.
Cancer Awareness and Education is also very important because people get to have knowledge on the importance of going for screening. Being humans, no one is exempt to falling sick and we are all at risk of getting cancer. Once discovered early, however, one can deal with it and be cured.
How has cancer changed my life?
Cancer has mostly empowered me to be more conscious of and to educate myself in the risk factors, preventive measures, nutrition, just to mention a few. I am also glad to share the insights I have learned everywhere I go. It has become one of my passions to educate others as well as walk with other cancer patients encouraging them and helping with information where I can. My jewellery making business enables me to do this. I have also partnered with other cancer survivors and we engage ourselves in projects and continue to encourage each other to live healthy.
Unfortunately, I relapsed in 2018 which was 4 years after my first treatment. I first noticed an abnormally smelly discharge that was so heavy, forcing me to use over five pads daily. On visiting the hospital, they broke the news and I had to start treatment all over again. This time I was advised to undergo Radiotherapy and Brachytherapy (internal radiotherapy). I completed this phase of treatment in November 2018.