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I got cancer 3 times after age 60 and still beat it

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In a span of six years, Florence Ojode, now 73, has fought two different cancers three times. She shares her story with My Health. I was first diagnosed with cancer aged 60 in 2007.

The diagnosis, which came exactly a month after my younger sister’s death from breast cancer, was a painful blow. My sister had died at age 54 in June; I got my diagnosis in July.

I had been my sister’s caregiver throughout her fight with cancer. As you can imagine, I had been reading up a lot about cancer so I could help her.

When I felt a hardened lump in my breast during a breast self-examination, I immediately knew what this could mean. With my family history, breast cancer seemed like the surest bet.

Like anyone in that situation would be, I was distraught. If it was cancer, would this be a death sentence for me, too? I waited a week to see if the lump would disappear, feeling it every day and praying for it to go away. It didn’t.I went to the same surgeon who had treated my sister. He immediately ordered for a series of tests, including a mammogram and biopsy.

The biopsy showed that the mass in my breast was indeed cancerous. I had stage two breast cancer. I was referred to an oncologist, who recommended a mastectomy of my left breast.A month after the mastectomy, I started chemotherapy treatment; I had six sessions of chemotherapy followed by 25 sessions of radiotherapy.

I didn’t mind the removal of my breast if it meant that I’d be cancer-free. I found the chemotherapy and radiotherapy to be even more brutal than the mastectomy.After chemotherapy sessions, which I had after every three weeks, I’d feel sick and weak.

I would have the treatment five days a week, Monday to Friday, and take breaks on weekends. I was also placed on hormonal treatment. The doctor explained that because my type of cancer was hormone sensitive, hormone therapy would help prevent recurrence. I was then given the all-clear from cancer. All was well!

The return

However, in 2010 I noticed my right nipple was inverting. From my knowledge of breast cancer symptoms, I immediately knew that something was wrong. It isn’t normal for a nipple to get inverted and this often means there’s a tumour pulling it inwards.A mammogram exam on the breast showed inconclusive results. But a biopsy confirmed that I had breast cancer for the second time.

This time round, the cancer was in the first stage. With this fact in mind, the doctor recommended a mastectomy; I didn’t have to go through chemotherapy sessions again.

After the mastectomy, I had 25 sessions of radiotherapy. I was put on different hormonal drugs to keep the cancer away. I was also required to have regular testing in case of recurrence.

But my battle with cancer was far from over. In 2012, I started feeling sick. I lost my appetite, felt constantly nauseated and bloated, and was always tired.

The doctor I went to see thought that I was only suffering from acidity. They gave me antacid medication and sent me away. But after weeks of taking the medication and seeing no improvement, I knew that it could be something more than acidity. In fact, my symptoms seemed to get worse with time.My oncologist ordered an X-ray scan to see if cancer had reoccurred.

The scan showed that I had an 8cm abnormal mass in my pelvis. I was referred to a gynaecologist, who recommended I immediately have surgery to remove the tumour. But I didn’t like the idea of having surgery without confirming if it was cancer. Together with my family, we decided to seek second opinion outside the country.At the time, PET scans weren’t available in Kenya. I travelled to Israel to get one, and it showed that I had ovarian cancer.

I was scheduled to have surgery to remove my ovary immediately. Because the cancer was caught in stage one, I only had two radiotherapy sessions and no chemotherapy. But I would need even more frequent follow-up tests in case of reoccurrence.From that time till now, I have been healthy and cancer-free. I go to my oncologist for follow-up tests and scans. I’m still on hormonal treatment, which I’ll have to take for the rest of my life. But this is a small price to pay for keeping cancer at bay.

I try to live my life positively and make the most of my time. I make sure to eat healthy; my meals comprise plenty of vegetables and I make sure to include fish and kienyeji chicken. I avoid red meat because I’m also hypertensive. I go for exercises at Faraja Cancer Care at MP Shah Hospital. These exercise classes are specially tailored for cancer patients and survivors.

Lessons learned

I have learned that cancer is a very expensive disease. I’m lucky to have had a very supportive family. They came through for me both financially and emotionally. For a person who doesn’t have access to such resources, cancer can have a devastating effect on them.

Even if you are relying on a health insurance cover, with cancer treatments, you quickly max out on the limit and have to start paying out of pocket. The NHIF covers such a small percentage of the costs that it doesn’t make much of a difference. I hope the government can make better policies regarding cancer treatment in the country.

Living out my life to the fullest

In a way, I was lucky to have been diagnosed with cancer at an older age. I was 60 when I got my first diagnosis, by which time I had already retired from my job.

Having a double mastectomy and removal of the ovaries can be devastating on a younger woman still in her reproductive years.I wear prosthetic breasts, and when I’m dressed, I look like any other woman my age. I focus on fully enjoying my life. In fact, in 2018 I was in Holland for three months, and last year I was in the US for three months.

I’ve had as much fun as I could wish for.I want other cancer patients and survivors to know cancer isn’t a death sentence. You can beat cancer and enjoy your life. Adopting a negative attitude will not only make you unhappy, it can also worsen your cancer symptoms and cut your life short.The coronavirus pandemic is especially terrifying for cancer patients and survivors.

If you are a cancer survivor and over the age of 58, it is advisable to stay indoors to avoid contact with any infected persons or surfaces. For now, I am staying indoors as I wait for the situation to get better.

By Standard.co.ke


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Business

VIDEO: Optiven CEO opens up about growing up in abject poverty, doing laundry for fellow students

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George Wachiuri, the CEO of Optiven Limited, has opened up about a side of him few people know about. Despite having built a multi-billion Shilling Real Estate Company and becoming one of the most recognisable names in the field, Wachiuri has remained a humble servant, who says he views his customers as associates and greatly respects and values his work mates. 

In an interview with Jeremy Damaris of Kenya Diaspora Media, he tells of how he struggled, lost money and friends, before rebounding “by the grace of God.”

A Certified Public Accountant – CPA (K) and is a former Lecturer at Daystar University, his entrepreneurial spirit developed early, and was awarded the Entreprenuer of the year 1997 by the University of Nairobi.

He is currently a PhD candidate at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

He holds a Masters’s degree in Business Administration (University of Nairobi), and a Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing option) Degree from University of Nairobi.

Watch as he tells his amazing story in Gīkūyū


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Lifestyle

‘Kikambala hotel bombing in 2002 changed our lives’

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The scars on Mercy Neema Mwagambo’s body are a stark reminder of what happened at Paradise Beach Hotel in Kikambala 18 years ago.

On November 28, 2002, a two-pronged terrorist attack hit an Israeli-owned hotel but missed a plane belonging to Arkia Airlines.

A vehicle crashed through a barrier outside the hotel on the Kilifi-Mombasa highway and blew up, killing 17 people and injuring 80 others.

Every year today, Neema and 13 victims of the attack and their families converge at the deserted hotel to pray for the souls of their departed relatives.

However, today could be the last annual ritual as the owner has put the hotel for sale.

Annual ritual

For Neema and other victims, it’s not clear if the prospective buyer would allow them to continue with this annual ritual.

It is an attack that left villages of Musumarini in Kilifi County destitute, negatively affected Israelis’ investments at the Coast and damaged the tourism sector.

“I am trying to sell this property even at a throwaway price,” said Yehuda Sulami, an Israeli, on phone from Tel Aviv, although he did not reveal the price.

Sulami claims that after the attack, there were efforts to push him out of business.

The former special forces officer said he had no money to compensate victims of the attack.

“I’ve faced an avalanche of litigation on compensation. There was no insurance cover on terrorism,” said Sulami.

It is the first time has spoken publicly on the matter.

He said while he sympathised with those who lost their loved ones or suffered injuries, he lost his lifetime investment and close friends and “there was no one to comfort me.”

Among the 17 who perished were 14 Kenyans and three Israelis. The deserted hotel is arguably the only remaining mark of Israel investment in Coast.

Prior to the attack, over 100,000 tourists from Israel had made Mombasa and Kenyan Coast their second home away from home.

“Arkia Airline used to bring in between 250-270 guests per flight. It had operated Mombasa route for close to seven years before the attempted missile attack,” said Sulami.

After the attack, the airline stopped flying the route and Israel investments at the Coast started dwindling.

Sulami claimed that what followed was a number of litigation and attempts to force them to close down the hotel.

“We became the target yet the Kenyan government had promised to assist the affected persons,” said Sulami, without providing any evidence of the alleged persecution.

The victims of the attack narrated to the Saturday Standard on how they were neglected by the Government and the owner of the hotel.

For instance, Neema cannot walk as her legs were seriously injured. She was working at the front office at the hotel.

On that fateful day, she was helping a guest check in as her colleagues were overwhelmed by the number of tourists.

“Had I remained inside the hotel at my work station, may be I would not have been injured this way,” said Neema.

November is a peak season for the tourism sector in Coast. On that day, as a group of 230 guests were leaving the hotel, another 250 tourists were checking in. All the guests were Israelis.

“I reported early for duty on that fateful day and was looking forward to a rather busy day since we had huge check in and check out for guests,” she said in an interview.

At the gate, a troupe of Girima dancers were doing their jig to bid goodbye to outgoing guests and welcome the incoming ones.

Most of the incoming tourists had already been ushered in to the waiting lounge at the reception but a small group had joined the traditional dancers.

“What followed was a huge bang followed by fire all over the Makuti-thatched hotel,” Neema said, adding that she found herself on the ground.

Neema could not walk so she crawled to the swimming pool. She had suffered serious burns allover her body and decided to jump into the swimming pool to cool herself.

“I was taken to hospital in Mombasa and later airlifted by a military aircraft to Israel for specialised treatment at Jerusalem Hospital. I spent four weeks receiving treatment for my broken legs and burnt face and back,” she said.

The Kikambala bombing incident also robbed the family of Mufidha Mohamed of its breadwinner, Wildred Oyaro Owuor, who used to operate a taxi business at the hotel.

“My husband suffered a ruptured stomach. He died 21 days after he was admitted at Pandya Hospital,” Mufidha says. She was breastfeeding Zaki, their last born now 18 years, when the attack happened.

She said with the death of her husband, she was left as the sole breadwinner to fend for her five children.

“It has not been easy for us all. I have tried to venture into business with very little success,” she said.

Today Mufidha, her children and a few other survivors will converge at the blast site to hold prayers and commemorate those who died.

“Today we shall go to the hotel which has now closed down to hold prayers. It is a ritual I’ll do until I meet him in the next life,” says Mufidha.

Dr Sam Ikwaye, Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (Kahc) Coast branch executive officer, says the events of the fateful day have had a long impact on Kenyan tourism.

Travel advisories

Dr Ikwaye says it is after the Kikambala bombing that key foreign tourists source markets started issuing travel advisories against Mombasa and the Coast region.

“This was the start of a very bad beginning for Kenyan tourism,” Ikwaye said.

He explained the Kikambala bombing marked the first time the industry experienced serious external shocks and has never fully recovered.

“Neighbouring nations too and the world experienced our pain years after we had suffered and today terrorism has been recognised as a threat not just synonmous with Kenya, but the world over,” he said.

Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo said it is unfortunate that no compensation was made to those who suffered the brunt of the terror attack.

“Both the national and county governments should be compelled to assist surviving families. This will not take away completely the suffering they have endured but will offer some sort of comfort to those affected,” said Justice (rtd) Madzayo.

by Standardmedia.co.ke


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Entertainment

‘We had invested…’ Churchill reveals how the pandemic has hit him

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Comedian Churchill says just like any other business, coronavirus has hit him too.

Churchill, real name Daniel Ndambuki has been doing ‘The Journey Series’ on his TV show which is originally a stand-up comedy show that attracts thousands of viewers.

Speaking to Mpasho, Churchill revealed;

“We had invested quite some amount in the production of the show. And now, you can’t use that gear, you have to put all that aside. You cannot set up something so big for like 200 people, that is loss-making. It almost takes us to where we began. We remain positive though”

Adding;

“I am happy with all that is happening from all other comedians.”

Churchill said this after the launch of TuKo App, which he is the brand ambassador.

Churchill Photo By Charlene Malwa

by Mpasho.co.ke


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