• What was first thought of as a sinus infection turned out to be much worse than Zack Ezekiel Libamira could have imagined.
• The other doctor confirmed he had a tumour and needed urgent surgery to remove it.
Ezekiel Libamira does not refer to himself as a cancer survivor but as a conquerer.
The 57-year-old says he is glad he was diagnosed with throat cancer because his story can encourage someone else.
Strong as ever, the father of three chose to share his story with the Star in order to inspire others.
"In 2008, I began experiencing trouble breathing and talking. People thought I had sinuses and suggested I see an ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist. I was told that my nose was blocked and given medication that would clear it in a few days," he said.
For the next six months after that, he struggled with a shifting pain from one part of his body to another but mostly on his chin which he cradled when talking to people.
He sought treatment at Kenyatta National Hospital.
The doctor, after reviewing his symptoms, said that he might have a tumour 0n his nasal strip.
He was then advised to go for a biopsy to confirm.
"True to his word, I had a big tumour. I went for the biopsy which was done under local anaesthesia. I was half-awake through the process and it was a very painful experience," Libamira narrates.
He took the sample to the laboratory myself and was back for the results in a week as instructed.
Accompanied by two friends on March 7, 2009, he went in alone to see the doctor.
"I have some not so good and some bad news for you,” the doctor said.
The bad news was that he had stage two throat cancer.
"I saw was death," Libamira painfully recounts.
"As the doctor explained everything, I just went into prayer and asked God to spare me."
He gave the report to his friends who were waiting for him in the car.
"I could not talk as I was holding myself from breaking down. I thought about how I would break the news to my children," Libamira says.
"Their mother had already walked out of the family and it was hard for them. I could only imagine how they would take this."
His business partner, who normally does not talk much, looked at the results and passed it on to the other friend, a woman who was his neighbour. She became hysterical.
"I looked at a picture of my three children and decided that I would live for them. I faced a lot of stigma as well," he goes on.
Libamira's friends insisted he seeks another opinion which they even suggested to pay for.
The other doctor confirmed he had a tumour and needed urgent surgery to remove it.
He had heard of how surgery may cause the spread of cancer cells so he decided to seek a third opinion.
"Within these few weeks, I had already lost 34 kilos. The oncologist recommended 33 radiotherapy sessions before the chemotherapy sessions. My friends came in handy and immediately formed a committee to raise funds for my treatment. I started the radiotherapy sessions," Libamira said.
DEAD MAN WALKING
Within three days of the radiotherapy treatment, he could not taste anything.
He also lost his appetite and could barely keep anything in his body as he went through chemotherapy.
"I would vomit anything I tried to eat or drink. I became dehydrated to a point that my tongue was so dry that swallowing pills was a problem," Libamira said.
"The radiotherapy further burned my face so people could not even recognise me."
He lost 50 kilogrammes during treatment.
People labelled him as a dead man walking, while others even thought he was suffering from HIV/AIDS.
In May 2010, after two months of treatment, he was declared cancer-free.
"I was introduced to alternative treatment, or natural therapy, by a nutritionist who I consulted as he was being treated which has helped me until today. This cleansing treatment from China required me to take 72 capsules of natural products aside from the painkillers I had from the hospital," he adds.
10 years, 5 months down the line, Libamira is still living and motivating others living with cancer.
"I am one of the few men in the many cancer support groups that I belong to. Men are scared to share their stories. They are afraid that people would take their illness as a sign of weakness," Libamira says.
He says he is grateful he went through this because otherwise, he would not be giving hope to others today.