Cancer scourge: How I lost my eyesight, hearing to leukaemia
When we met Eunice Mwaura, also known as “Lefty”, she welcomed us warmly in her neatly-arranged one-roomed house in Witeithie on Thika Super Highway.
With a broad smile, the 28-year-old quickly clears the beads and strings that were on the table. The smile erases her struggle with leukaemia.
“I usually make these neckpieces and bracelets to earn a living and finance my costly treatment. I also take up some odd jobs,” she says.
Profuse continuous bleeding in 2013 would have been the most obvious hint for Eunice and her family of leukaemia, but at the time, they knew nothing about cancer of blood.
“One night after I got my tooth extracted, I over-bled but it stopped, albeit for a few days ,” says the former receptionist at Kenya Wildlife Service offices.
Her head constantly ached, her blood count was low and she often felt dizzy.
“There was this time a colleague needed blood donation and I turned up. I could not produce even a drop of blood even after pricking my finger. We laughed it off with my colleagues and did not think much of it,” says Eunice.
The migraines would worsen.
“This was still in 2013. I used to attend evening classes after work. The drugs I took to deal with the headaches did not work and now, I was convinced I was stressed just as everyone pointed out,” the first born in a family of three children says.
Soon after, her weight dropped from 55kgs to 50kgs. “It was so bad I even began collapsing at work. My skin was pale. A friend suggested I get tested for HIV/Aids,” she says with a smile.
The year 2014 started on a bad note. “I tired easily and I developed lumps on my body,” she recalls. Medics put her on blood-boosting foods and drugs.
“The drugs made my mind thud! I felt like I was losing my mind. All this while, I was misdiagnosed with severe infections, malaria, even typhoid since
my white blood cells count was abnormally high,” Eunice says.
She started stammering and everyone around her insisted she was depressed.
“I remember people saying I may have been bewitched and was asked if I had come in contact with anyone suspicious. Being staunch Christians, my parents prayed for me all the time.”
One night her condition worsened and her vision blurred. She was bleeding through her left eye and she was vomiting. She was taken to Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi.
“I was admitted and one of the side rooms became my home for four months,” she said. The night she was admitted her left eye became blind.
When they drew her blood for testing, it was brownish, indicating all was not well. The sample was sent to India.
“In between my stay at Kenyatta, I bled one night through my right ear and the bleeding stopped along with the hearing,” Eunice quips.
Throughout her stay, she would see beds being cleared after the occupants died. Eunice even thought about death to save her family the trouble of incurring such huge expenses.
“My brother forewent college just so I could get treatment. My family was stretched and my father sold off most of his property to offset my bills,” she adds.
The results came back indicating she had leukaemia.
“I never imagined I would be diagnosed with cancer at such a young age. I was in denial and I was bitter with God. The doctor’s said that I had three months to live; The blood cancer was in stage three, phase four.”
The chances of survival, doctors told her, were 50-50 if she underwent treatment. She started chemotherapy and radio sessions towards the end of 2014.
“I looked terrible! And I became an attraction in the village. People would come home just to see me and the stigma was too much. Even as I got better, it was hard for me to get by,” she sighs.
She had a tough time getting her balance while walking and would stagger.
“In the hospital, my then boyfriend broke up with me and it stung a little. The physical pain I had outweighed the emotional pain despite the fact that he told me off citing unwanted ‘hereditary genes’. But being out there and not having friends was tough. Even tougher was dating,” she admits.
With time, she got better and fell in love. “In 2017, after being friends with a certain guy, things looked up. I liked him,” Eunice said.
Family introductions were made and they planned their wedding for 2018.
“He called the engagement off and it hurt but I have since dealt with it. I, however, want a child and not necessarily a relationship; being a burden is not an idea I fancy,” she laughs.
Six months after treatment, the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests showed the cancer levels were reducing.
“I have been on oral therapy since and this year, the tests showed my cancer was at per cent per cent down from 78 per cent,” she says.
Eunice has monthly clinic visits that could cost Sh7, 000 or more. “I keep nagging my oncologist at Nairobi Hospital for a baby but, he says I have to wait, my health comes first.
Henzo Kenya who have partnered with Nairobi Hospital have been very instrumental in providing me with drugs otherwise three million per year on medication would not be possible,” she smiles.