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The weight of cancer on caregivers

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On Christmas Day in 2018, Mercy Barasa spent her day pacing up and down the corridors of AIC Kijabe Hospital.

Occasionally, she peeped furtively into the room where her mother, Everlyne Mukhongo, lay almost motionless.

“I watched the blankets for movement – a sign that she was still alive, and a chance to breathe a sigh of relief,” says a thoughtful Mercy.

Her fears were not unfounded, as the family had spent four months moving from one doctor to another, trying to get to the bottom of her mother’s constant, unexplained ailments.

Malaria, jaundice and diabetes were some of the diseases her mother was treated for before they visited AIC Kijabe Hospital where doctors appeared disturbed by her deteriorating condition, and ordered a CT scan which confirmed their worst fears. Mercy’s mother had stage three pancreatic cancer.

Mercy Barasa’s mother was diagnosed with stage three pancreatic cancer and is currently under palliative care. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL |NATION MEDIA GROUP

The doctors could not, however, remove the tumour because it had spread from the pancreas to neighbouring tissue. Removing it would be dangerous. The medical term for it is unresectable.

Instead, they recommended palliative care, which focuses on providing relief from pain and other symptoms, as well as physical and mental stress at any stage of an illness.

“I take care of her because I am the only sibling without a family of my own, plus I live in Nairobi, which makes access to the hospital easier,” says Mercy matter-of-factly, as she fiddles with her hands, recollecting the arduous emotional since her mother’s diagnosis.

“I lost my appetite and developed amnesia. I forgot my ATM card and mobile phone PINs,” she recalls. And she didn’t realise what a problem it was, until she found herself walking towards Easy Coach offices to book a ticket to Busia – their rural home – having forgotten that she had a rented house in Nairobi.

“I eventually sought counselling from a church but even then, I had to drop out because it felt too mechanical; like they were using a template to address my issues instead of actually listening to me.”

One of the ways Mercy wishes people around her would support her is by not sharing negative stories about their friends and relatives who succumbed to cancer.

Mercy Barasa with her mother Everlyne and father Hannington. PHOTO | COURTESY

“You are not helping me by saying that. It’s draining,” says a pensive Mercy, who adds that she will seek a counsellor’s help to deal with the knowledge that each breath her mother takes could be her last.

Her mother has never seen her tears but she has locked herself in her room to cry away her pain. The hardest part is when they are making plans for the future, and her mother asks: “Will I really be alive to see that?”

But Mercy encourages her to fight on, even with the knowledge that every minute they spend together is precious.

“I used to ask my mother’s doctors how much time she had to live, but they gave me no answers. In retrospect, I’m glad they refused because I have learnt to take one day at a time.”

Financial and emotional pain aside, Mercy has also had a hard time getting a proper caregiver for her mother.

“House helps flee when they see my mother’s condition and nurses charge by the hour. I’ve thought of quitting my job to take care of my mother, but of what use would that be, when the job is what helps me afford to take care of her?”

Bob Collymore’s death hit her mother particularly hard, as there was a lot of talk about death and cancer then.

Ibrahim Mmudi with his wife Anastasia Adhiambo, who was diagnosed with colon cancer. He is her primary caregiver. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU

Like Mercy, Ibrahim Mmudi had also had to help a loved one fight cancer.

His wife, Anastacia Otieno, was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer in 2017 and he has seen her through the worst of it.

“She started complaining of stomach-aches when she was expecting our third child and we thought they were just pregnancy pains that would go away.”

But the pain did not subside even after delivery, forcing them to seek medical help. An ultrasound during one of their many visits to hospital revealed she had a growth in her stomach.

“She was unable to relieve herself when she went to the toilet. Instead, both urine and faecal matter would come out through her mouth. She really suffered,” says Ibrahim, his eyes clouding at the memory.

Desperate, they went to their rural home in search of herbal medicine, but that too hit the wall.

Further medical tests revealed that the tumour had blocked Anastacia’s colon. She spent six months at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) bedridden. The constant hospital visits, tests and admission took a financial toll on the family, forcing them to send two of their three children to Ibrahim’s aunt back in the village. Their seven-year-old son remained behind as he was in school.

Even though NHIF and well-wishers helped with payments and KNH waived part of their Sh710,000 bill, the financial challenges meant that Anastacia could not keep up with chemotherapy as required and the tumour recurred.

“Fortunately, it did not spread to other organs, but there are risks involved in removing it so the doctors opted to let it be.

“Were it not for a Good Samaritan who saw my despair and managed to get me treatment at Texas Cancer centre, I would be in a worse state,” adds the soft-spoken Anastacia.

Prof Catherine Gachutha. She is a counselling psychologist. PHOTO | COURTESY

Her husband shares a “before cancer” photo of her. The image of a smartly-dressed and jovial Anastacia – tall. Lithe. Fashionable. Beautiful.

“Can you even tell it’s the same person?” asks Anastacia, smiling past her pain, as she remembers a time when she did not have to worry about whether she would ever see her children again.

“I’m an orphan so I know what it is like to grow up without parents. I would not want my children to go through the same pain,” she adds.

Ibrahim often battles with feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and confusion.

“Watching someone you love go through cancer is a torturous experience that I would not wish on my worst enemy. Worse still is the painful realisation that there is nothing you can do to ease her pain.”

Ibrahim is solely responsible for taking care of his wife, but sometimes he relies on the help of neighbours whenever he is away.

“It’s better to be hungry and healthy than full and unhealthy,” says a contemplative Ibrahim, who relies on odd jobs to get by.

Anastacia is currently undergoing chemotherapy sessions at KNH but the couples biggest pain is that NHIF could only cover six of the 12 sessions needed.

Ibrahim’s greatest hope is for a well-wisher to help them pay medical bills as this would go a long way in his wife’s cancer treatment.

“The only thing I want is for her to get better.”

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Lifestyle

KCB closes branch after envoy collapses and dies

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Kenya Commercial Bank has shut down one of its main branches after a South Sudanese envoy collapsed and died.

Confirming the Thursday afternoon incident KCB, in a statement, said it had opted to close KCB Advantage center at Kencom House along Moi avenue indefinitely.

The bank revealed that it had already reported to police the matter involving 66-year-old Michael Nyang Jook, the South Sudanese ambassador to Eritrea.

“We regret to confirm that a customer at our KCB Advantage Branch, Moi Avenue, Nairobi collapsed and died this afternoon during a visit to the branch. The incident was reported to the police, and they took over the matter,” the statement read in part.

According to the police report, the ambassador collapsed after complaining he was experiencing difficulty in breathing.

The incident was reported at the Central Police Station under OB/22/102020.

On the shutdown, KCB said, “We encourage our customers to visit our other Advantage Centres or use alternative banking touchpoints such as cash recyclers, ATMs, cash deposit machines, Mobi, KCB M-Pesa, Vooma and internet banking.”

The KCB management also sent message of condolences to the family of the deceased.

“We condole and stand with the family during this difficult time,” the statement concluded.

By NN

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Lifestyle

Othuol Othuol’s final journey commences at KNT

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The late comedian Ben Maurice Onyango alias Othuol Othuol, who passed on while receiving treatment at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), will be laid to rest on Saturday at Got Gaga village, Ndere in Alego, Siaya County.

Comedians In Kenya Society chairman Ken Waudo said the hearse carrying the late Churchill Show rib cracker left Chiromo Mortuary on Friday morning for its first stopover at the Kenya National Theatre (KNT) Tree Yard for the first funeral service.

The funeral service, Waudo said, is being held while strictly observing Covid-19 restrictions before the body commences the journey to his Siaya final resting place.

“We would like to thank all friends, family and fans who stood with us, as well as all the entertainment fraternity, more so comedians, with a special mention to Churchill and Jalang’o for their immense support and being on the frontline to mourn greatly our colleague. Also political leaders who came in handy,” said Waudo.

On Wednesday evening, Kenyan comedians held a candlelit vigil at KNT for the late comedian led by Churchill and Jalang’o and which also acted as a fundraiser.

The comedians were also joined by a section of celebrities from different sectors as well as the fallen comedian’s fans as they also sought to offset his burial expenses.

According to Waudo, the funeral committee had put a budget of Sh1 million to cater for all the burial expenses and to offset Othuol’s debts.

The comedian died at the age of 31.

BY NN

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Education

Mwangi Mukami: Kenyan man who scored D+ in KCSE earns his 5th degree in US

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Mwangi Mukami has shared his inspirational story on how he had achieved academic success in the United States (US) years after he was considered a failure by the Kenyan education system.

Mukami scored a D+ in his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams and had no chance of joining any institution of higher learning in the country.

Sharing his story on his Facebook page, he said an opportunity to leave the country for the US restored his dreams of attaining a college or university education.

“Over 20 years ago, Kenya’s education system wrote me off as a failure because I had a D+,” he narrated.

“I remember vividly saying to my peers that I wanted to be a policymaker or an attorney. Their response was a burst of collective laughter and sneer,” he added.

Focused on his goal, Mukami did not waste any time when he arrived in the US. He immediately went back to school to pursue his dreams.

Now aged 36, the young man has recently graduated with his fifth degree from the University of California and hopes he will live long to open doors of opportunities to more D+ students.

Mwangi Mukami: Kenyan man who scored D+ in KCSE earns his 5th degree in US

Mwangi Mukami with his mother during a graduation ceremony. Photo: Mwangi Mukami.
Source: Facebook

“For the misfits, the rejected, and the oppressed,” he said.

He attributed his success to his mother who raised him and his six siblings single-handedly while selling unspecified things at the Kawangware market.

“Congratulations to my mom. The degree is a reflection of her tenacity. I am grateful and honoured to have wonderful brothers and sisters who support and trust my ability to achieve,” he added.

He further noted that he proudly uses his mother’s middle name – Mukami- as his surname because she was his hero

According to Mukami, his mother sacrificed a lot to ensure they got a decent education, had food to eat even during difficult situations and that they had the nest childhood.

Mukami said whatever they lacked in material wealth was compensated by what they possessed in spiritual, mental, and emotional health.

“I was raised in a ten by twelve foot house by a woman who believed I could change the world. And I am still changing the world,” he said.

The 36-year-old went on to reveal that for three years now, he had been providing scholarships and relief grants to children in Kawangware and most recently, in Kibera and Mathare.

TUKO.co.ke previously reported of a young medic who defied all odds to achieve her dream careers just to prove wrong a family friend who discouraged her from studying.

Ifeyinwa Ezeudu is a medical doctor, pharmacists, science laboratory technician, weight management coach, nutrition and lifestyle coach.

Ezeudu said she was discouraged from pursuing her career choices because she was a Muslim girl.

by Tuko.co.ke

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