Cancer patients facing even more challenges, starvation
As the social distancing directive takes shape, cancer patients are confronted with the risk of starvation due to lack of food.
For many patients already struggling with the burden of high treatment costs, access to food is a huge challenge.
Jane Frances Njoki (left), a cancer advocate and survivor says lack of food could weaken the patients’ already compromised immunity leaving them susceptible to coronavirus.
“Most of the patients have been relying on well-wishers to fund their treatment and now getting food is a struggle,” she says.
Grace Wangui, a breast cancer patient from Kawangware, is unsure of where she will get her next meal.
It has been two weeks since Wangui underwent a mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer Stage 2.
The 48-year-old who underwent the surgery with the support of a donor has no job but has been relying on her two sisters who she lives with to put food on the table.
“I don’t have parents nor do I have children. My sisters are all I have got,” she says. But now with the outbreak of the coronavirus, one of her sisters who is the breadwinner is unable to feed the family.
“My sister hawks clothes in Kawangware. Her business has been badly affected by this outbreak,” adds Wangui.
With the little money her sister makes, she has to choose between buying food for the family or purchasing medication for Wangui.
In Kangemi, Rose Wanja has returned home from work empty handed for days on end.
The 61-year-old breast cancer patient, hawks tea leaves in Kangemi to earn a living. But business has been low in the past two weeks.
Wanja is under medication but cannot afford to take a balanced diet as advised by the doctor.
Wanja lives by herself since her children are grown up and have their own families to support.
She worries that with the current coronavirus outbreak, life is likely to get even tougher.
“Doctors advise that I eat a diet that can boost my blood levels. That has not been possible. Now my body feels weak as if the sickness has aggravated,” she says.
The plight of Wangui and Wanja is similar to that of many other cancer patients across the country. Jane says that they are more than 100 patients in a support group in Kariobangi, Kawangware, Kangemi and Limuru who are in urgent need of food, medication and toiletries.
Looking for welwishers
“We are looking for well-wishers to provide dry foods such as rice, flour, milk, cooking oil and cereals.
To maintain hygiene during this period, we are also requesting for soap and sanitisers donations.
Any support will come in handy in keeping the patients strong even as they take their medication,” says Jane.
She fears that the current situation may end up aggravating the patient’s illness. “Most of the patients even those in critical condition have been advised to go home.
She says that for some, treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy have been postponed to a later date.
Given their low immunity, cancer patients are at a high risk of contracting coronavirus.
The much we can do right now is to ensure that they are eating well and taking their medication,” she adds.