RUINING LIVES

Why is cancer treatment so costly? Asks survivor

I spend Sh1,345 on my drugs daily, says Kellen Ndwige

In Summary

• The least she paid for a chemotherapy session was Sh53,800 while all her 29 radiotherapy sessions consumed Sh255,200.

•The sessions drained her family's resources. 

Kellen Ndwige, a cancer survivor, at the Del Monte headquarters in Thika.
Kellen Ndwige, a cancer survivor, at the Del Monte headquarters in Thika.
Image: John Kamau

On February 14, 2017, Kellen Ndwige received the worst news of her life.

It all started when she was taking a shower on February 2, 2017, as she prepared to go to work. She noticed a growth on her left breast. She decided to have a medical check-up, which revealed she had stage four breast cancer.

Ndwige has been working at Del Monte Kenya Limited in Thika since 1998 up-to-date. She narrated her journey battling cancer during the firm’s launch of the Women's Health and Empowerment programme together with the United Nations Foundation (UNF).

 

She said that upon receiving the news she felt she had come to her end. “I was shocked and speechless. I couldn’t imagine that I had been diagnosed with cancer. I felt that my days in this world had come to an end,” she said.

“But God gave me a lot of grace and I accepted. I thought of my family which I had to bring up and sustain. I remained with two options – to give up or to soldier on and battle my ailment. I chose to fight.” 

Ndwige said she immediately underwent a mastectomy in which her left breast was removed. After the wound healed, she started chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions.

However, she noted that the sessions drained her family's resources. The least she paid for a chemotherapy session was Sh53,800 while all her 29 radiotherapy sessions consumed Sh255,200.

“Treating this disease is extra costly and that’s why it’s advisable to undergo early screening because if it’s detected at an early stage, it will be easier and less costly to treat,” she said.

She said that chemotherapy obliterated her beauty. She lost her hair and became ‘extreme dark’. “I felt so isolated. I even lost some of my friends. They were talking ill about my illness but this didn’t keep me from fighting the disease.”

Ndwige said she has already completed her chemo and radiography sessions and  is now on medication as well as regular check-ups.

 

She hailed Del Monte Kenya Limited for accepting her and allowing her to work at the firm even with her condition. “I didn’t lose my job because of my ailment. My bosses at Del Monte told me to look for a place in the company where I could fit.” 

Ndwige said she is now able to work and sustain her family. "I spend Sh1,345 on my drugs daily and I’m able to manage buying them thanks to Del Monte.”

She appealed to Kenyans to show love and support for cancer patients to boost their morale. “Don’t stigmatise them. Show them love and support,” she said.

 Del Monte managing director Stergios Gkaliamoutsas said the Women's Health and Empowerment programme is aimed at educating and supporting women on  cancer, contraceptives, sexually transmitted infections and menstrual health.

He said the firm targets reaching out to over 10,000 women working in the company and those in the surrounding community by 2024.

The company is also committed to offer health services and training to prevent gender-based violence.

“As a company, we strongly believe that businesses are a formidable force for positive change, and that by integrating women’s health and empowerment issues into corporate strategy, we can complement and enhance the government’s effort,” he said.

Kenya Association of Manufacturers CEO Phyllis Wakiaga said the programme was a step towards making the community safe for women.

“The programme shall protect workers by providing a safe and productive environment for them to operate in, thereby optimising their labour for increased quality output.”

“The participation of women is critical in driving industrial growth. Understanding women’s representation in the sector, addressing the challenges they face, and sealing gaps that inhibit their participation is paramount,” she said.

 

 

Kenya Association of Manufacturers CEO Phyllis Wakiaga cuts the ribbon during the launch of Del Monte Kenya Limited's Women Health and Empowerment Programme. Looking on is Del Monte managing director Stergios Gkaliamoutsas and other officials.
Kenya Association of Manufacturers CEO Phyllis Wakiaga cuts the ribbon during the launch of Del Monte Kenya Limited's Women Health and Empowerment Programme. Looking on is Del Monte managing director Stergios Gkaliamoutsas and other officials.
Image: John Kamau