BY JOLLY MBAMBU
To many people, the first cancer diagnosis is gritted with shock and disbelief; and failure to accept their new but dreaded status of cancer patients.
Slowly, if not helped to appreciate their condition, one could be doused in depression and sadness; the condition can be worse for men who engulfed by society expectations are not met to share their problems but face them as “men”.
In this story, Jolly Mbambu narrates how victims of cancer have overcome the pessimism that comes with being diagnosed with the monstrous disease.
Johnson Baluku, a 69- year –old resident of Kigoro village in Rukooki sub-county says before seeking the services of Kagando Hospital, his urinal bladder had been blocked and was surprised when he was told by the medics at the health facility that he was suffering from prostate cancer.
Baluku recalls how he even lost his first wife whom he had spent 15 years with without having a child.
According to him, he had sold many of his property to be able to foot the hospital bills both at Mbarara Referral Hospital and Mulago National Referral Hospital before his stepmother introduced him to the Palliative Nurse at Kagando Hospital.
Baluku, now a father to two children that he has produced with new wife, currently lives a happy life following a holistic care offered to him by his family and medical professionals at Kagando Hospital.
As a sign of appreciation, Baluku has been forced to name his second born after Ann, the America Dr, behind the idea of establishing a Palliative Care Project at Kagando Hospital.
A related ordeal is narrated by Blasio Ngiima Maathe, a resident of Kabukero village in Karusandara sub-county.
Maathe told Messiah Radio that when he was first diagnosed with protest cancer; he felt like his world had come to an end.
The 66-year-old cattle farmers reveals that not even the care from his family members would soothe him and convince him that he still had enough to accomplish.
“When I learnt that I had developed cancer; I was afraid that I was death had come to strike. I looked at some of my projects and I was convinced that all of them were going to collapse. I kept wondering about who would look after my animals in times of ill health.” He said.
He was drained in thought and slowly he was beginning to lose his real self and becoming a hopeless man until he was introduced a palliative care program run by Kagando Hospital.
Palliative Care, according to the World Health Organization, is a holistic approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families who are facing problems associated with life threatening diseases.
Kagando Hospital, a private-not-for-profit medical facility run by South Rwenzori Diocese, started a palliative care program to support the vulnerable and elderly victims of cancer within Kasese district and the entire Rwenzori sub region in general.
Now Maathe, who is among the 214 current beneficiaries of this program, narrates that consistent and professional counselling enabled him to appreciate the fact that much as he had been diagnosed with monstrous disease, the world had not come at an end.
“Since I was enrolled at Kagando’s palliative care program, my life has had a turnaround because of the support I get. We are supplied with drugs and other essential commodities including soap and sugar. But most importantly, it is the fact that the they [program staff] keep visiting us, sharing with us business ideas and also prepare us for any future eventualities.” He narrated.
Sidora Katusiime, a Palliative Nurse at Kagando Hospital says the project has instilled hope of living longer among the cancer patients and their caregivers through offering counseling and diagnosis services to patients of prostate, breast, lung and cervical cancer among others.
Katusiime stresses that the medics at Kagando Hospital move to different areas to deliver medicine for pain and symptom relief, psychosocial support and other basic needs to boost the patents’ hygiene.
She revealed that with support from Dr. Ann Goodman and Friends of Kagando in the United Kingdom, Kagando Hospital has for 17 years now supported more than 400 cancer victims.
She, however, emphasizes the need for the people to lead health life and desist from lifestyles that could increases chances of contracting cancerous diseases including feeding on excess fats, lack of physical exercises, smoking and abuse of alcoholic substances.
The average age of individuals diagnosed with cancer is 66, meaning that about half of all cancer cases are in men and women aged 66 and above.
According to the Ugandan Ministry of Health, an estimated 33,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year with only 7,400 making it to receiving specialized care at the Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala.
What else is there for the elderly cancer patients?
While government has not established a specific program to support the elderly who are grappling with cancer, Kasese district senior community development officer Queengonda Asiimwe says they can use theSpecial Assistance Grants to the Elderly – SAGE to improve their lives.
Meanwhile, Bishop Zebedee Kahangwa Masereka, the retired bishop of South Rwenzori Diocese emphasizes the need for victims to commit their lives to God.
Bishop Masereka says even with compromised health, cancer patients like Maathe and Baluku are capable of accomplishing great things in life provided they don’t give up.