Cancer survivor says love from kin keeps her going

Eunice Wanjiku has an athletic build, looks healthy and is full of vigour.

Looking at her, one cannot tell the struggles the 28-year-old has endured in the past five years. Wanjiku was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2014.

PAINFUL

By the time she knew she had the disease, Wanjiku could only see with one eye, hear with one ear and walked with difficulty.

Doctors told her that she only had four months to live if she did not undergo a bone-marrow transplant.

The operation, she was cautioned, would be very delicate and there was no guarantee of survival.

“My parents were devastated and disoriented. They had to choose between allowing me to go through the painful process or let me wait for an equally agonising death. It was a tough decision,” she says.

Eventually, Wanjiku’s parents opted for the surgery.

And then began the long, painful journey of chemotherapy.

‘‘Cancer remains calm in the body for a while before erupting violently like a volcano,” Wanjiku says.

Her life took a turn for the worse with constant dizziness, severe headaches, painful joints and walking difficulties. For a year, she could barely do anything by herself.

Eventually, medical expenses exhausted what she had saved from her previous job and her parents had nothing left for her treatment.

But even as she battled the disease, Wanjiku had to help her parents raise money for her medical bills.

COUNSELLED

“I was left with no choice but to borrow money from people I knew and strangers. I learnt that cancer is about putting aside your pride, shame and embarrassment. I lost friends and went into depression. It was devastating,” she says, adding: ‘‘With physiotherapy and practice, I was able to walk again, but it was a big struggle.”

In 2015, Wanjiku’s oncologist introduced her to Henzo Foundation, a support network for people with different types of cancer. The organisation gave her a new lease of life, she says.

“Through sharing my story and learning from other patients, the foundation has enabled me to live with confidence, hope and dignity. Henzo Foundation also introduced me to Norvatis, which caters for my medical expenses,” Wanjiku says, adding, she is also counselled.

Wanjiku says love, support and reassurances from family and friends is what has kept her going. She says:

“I use my journey with cancer to live my life to the fullest. The beauty of life is the ability to evolve and face challenges head-on.

ENCOURAGE

“Having to adapt to seeing with one eye, hearing with one ear and walking with difficulty, has been tough, but I’ve learnt that whatever situation you are in, you’ll overcome it depending on how you handle it.”

Due to her condition, the certificate in journalism holder, has not found a formal job. To get by, she washes clothes for neighbours and does beadwork.

Wanjiku is passionate about writing, and having been through a tempest, she uses her story to encourage others who may be battling illnesses and other challenges of life through her Facebook page.

According to the Kenya Cancer Registry, cancer is the third biggest killer in the country after cardiovascular and infectious diseases.

Experts recommend early diagnosis to prevent death.

‘‘From my experience, early screening is the most important part of managing cancer,” Wanjiku advises. “Don’t wait to get sick. Take advantage of free screening and check-ups whenever you have a chance.”

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