• Chivila advised cancer patients to follow the instructions given to them by the doctor or the nutritionist.
• Fondo said people, especially those aged 50 and above, should do regular screening.
“I have conquered. I'm very proud to say that I have conquered.”
Those are the triumphant words of 61-year-old Patience Chivila, who bravely fought the number three killer disease in Kenya – cancer.
During lockdown in 2020, Chivila noticed a lump in her left breast but could do nothing about it.
Immediately the lockdown ended, she travelled to Mombasa from Kaloleni in Kilifi county and was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She was referred to Dr Riaz Kasmani of the Mombasa Cancer Centre and was immediately put on chemotherapy.
“Whenever you receive the news that you have cancer, do not fear. For most of us, when told we have cancer, we feel we have been given a death sentence. You will not die,” Chivila said.
She was one of two cancer survivors who were brought in to encourage anyone who could be found with cancer during a free cancer screening drive in Takaungu, Kilifi county, on Saturday.
The free cancer screening was organised by Kasmani and the Mombasa Cancer Centre with support from Mombasa Cement Company, the Salim Juma family and the Sayani Suppliers Ltd.
Chivila said she received the cancer news with peace of heart and trust in God.
“When the news was given to me by Dr Ngotho, I had a unique kind of peace. I did not understand where it came from,” she said.
She said many cancer victims start dying immediately after they are diagnosed.
“They die psychologically and when they do so, even if you give them medication, they will not survive,” Chivila said, adding that cancer can be treated if diagnosed early.
She advised cancer patients to follow the instructions given to them by the doctor or the nutritionist.
“Because during that time, even the immunity reduces and any opportunistic disease can give you problems,” Chivila said.
She said she reduced her activities, staying at home most of the time and gave her body a lot of rest.
She had her left breast cut off.
“In fact, today I stand here declaring myself healed. I got healed the day I was told I had cancer because I knew I was not alone. God was by my side,” Chivila said.
She said Kenyans can fight cancer if they understand that it can be treated and have the strong will to fight it.
Cancer, she said, has nothing to do with witchcraft as many rural communities believe, especially at the Coast.
She said running to traditional healers and witchdoctors will only serve to waste time and resources.
“In fact, it will speed up your death. I declared I’m not dying. I will not die today or tomorrow. That is what I told myself,” she said.
Chivila said her family is her greatest source of strength through their support.
She said family members and other relatives need to embrace cancer victims and make them feel loved.
“People lose weight during chemotherapy. But with the support of my family, I gained weight. I got to 81kg, something I had never achieved before,” Chivila said.
She said during her journey, she only let a few people close to her know of her predicament. They included her immediate family and the church.
“I knew if I announced it, there would be all kinds of doctors giving me all kinds of advice that would confuse me,” she said.
David Fondo, 62, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in July 2020, when he was 60 years old.
He said it all began when he started feeling pain while passing urine.
This prompted him to seek medical advice and several tests later, he was diagnosed with cancer.
He also passed through the hands of Dr Riaz Kasmani, who is among the 58 oncologists in the country and the first oncologist in Mombasa.
Unlike Chivila, Fondo thought the world had come to an end for him when he was diagnosed.
“I thought it was a death sentence. But today, I am living a normal and healthy life,” Fondo said.
He said people, especially those aged 50 and above, should do regular screening.
“In the past, it was a problem when you are diagnosed. But today, there are drugs and treatment,” Fondo said.
He said early diagnosis was one of the best ways to defeat the cancer menace and urged Kenyans not to fear screening.
He said the cost of treatment is the biggest challenge that cancer patients go through.
But with Mombasa Cement Company, the Salim Juma family and the Sayani Suppliers Ltd joining hands to provide free screening services and even treatment for those found with cancer, the burden has been reduced.
More than 1,000 people showed up for screening on Saturday.
Apart from screening, Takaungu residents were sensitised about the cancer scourge and how it can be treated or managed if one is diagnosed with it.
The residents were screened for cervical, breast, prostate and colon cancer, and Hepatitis B virus.
The Mombasa Cancer Centre does two free cancer screening sessions a year. One is usually on February 4, the Cancer Day, and another in October, during cancer month.
Such screenings have been conducted in Mombasa, Malindi, Kilifi and Samburu.
“Today’s screening was a special request because the Takaungu residents have never had such kind of services,” Kasmani said.
Those found with cancer on Saturday will be treated for free until they get healed, courtesy of Mombasa Cement, the Salim Juma family and the Sayani Suppliers Ltd.
Kasmani said cervical, breast and prostate cancers are the most common at the Coast.
“And those affected are mostly aged people because the more one ages, the higher the risk. However, today, we see breast cancer even among young women and girls,” he said.
The oncologist said one of the myths he would like eradicated is the belief that cancer is a death sentence, echoing the two cancer survivors, Chivila and Fondo.
“Cancer is not a death sentence. People have survived cancer before. Some people are living with cancer and are managing it well,” Kasmani said.
More than half of those who have been diagnosed with cancer early have survived, he said.
He said breast cancer is more common at the Coast with pockets of areas having a higher prevalence of the disease than others.
Kasmani said Malindi and Kilifi have recorded the highest incidence of breast cancer, which he said is mostly hereditary.
He said more than 90 per cent of the cervical cancer is caused by a virus called the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is spread through sexual intercourse.
“Patients with HPV are at a very high risk of getting cervical cancer. So people who are sexually active and those who have many sexual partners are at a very high risk of getting cervical cancer,” oncologist Kasmani said.
The good thing is that there is a vaccine against HPV, which is given to young girls before they start becoming sexually active.
“We are hoping as more people start taking such vaccines, the incidence of cervical cancer will reduce,” Kasmani said.
Salim Juma, a Mombasa businessman, urged residents to register with the National Health Insurance Fund to help with the cost of treatment when they get diagnosed with cancer or any other disease.
NHIF is the major insurance coverage for the majority of the population, but not all Kenyans can afford to make monthly contributions as required.
A greater percentage of cancer screening services in Kenya are financed through out-of-pocket payments.
“This disease is treatable and this will not be the last free screening service,” Juma said.
Mnarani MCA Juma Chengo said the myth that cancer is a witchcraft disease should be done away with.
He said poverty levels at the Coast make it hard to fight cancer because many cannot afford screening services and treatment when they fall victim.