How I survived stage four cervical cancer – Margaret Katana
“I was diagnosed with cancer in 2016. Prior to that, no one knew that I had the disease. I had continuous bleeding,” begins 55-year-old Margaret Katana.
When she went to Kilifi General Hospital, Margaret was told she had fibroids and was operated on to stop the bleeding. The bleeding and pain stopped but when she went to the clinic again for review, she received devastating news that she had cervical cancer.
For six months, she went for checkups, she was given painkillers until the doctor advised her to see a cancer specialist at Mombasa General Hospital, where she was told she had cancer though they didn’t specify what stage it was. The specialist advised her to look for a cancer specialist in Nairobi as fast as she could.
With the assitance of her daughter -in-law, they began looking for a cancer specialist and money to enable her get treatment in Nairobi.
“During this time, we were living in Mtwapa, Mombasa and I was in so much pain that even the strongest painkiller couldn’t ease it. I couldn’t eat or drink.
“At Mtwapa, I suffered from dehydration, lack of appetite, severe headache and the area where the growth was was very painful,” says Katana.
They googled various hospitals in Nairobi where they could get the best health care and discovered Kenyatta National Hospital and Texas Cancer Center.
They settled on Texas Cancer Centre and immediately booked a flight to Nairobi. After tests and scans were conducted, the results confirmed that she had stage four cervical cancer.
“I asked if it was curable and was told that the medication only prolongs life and eases the pain. The news devastated me completely. After admission, I underwent 10 chemotherapy and 15 radiotherapy sessions,” she recalls.
Margaret and her family settled for Texas as Kenyatta, though cheaper, was always fully booked. They had an appointment, which took two months before they could even see the specialist.
“While at Texas, I met wife to a former MP. She had gone for cancer treatment and was responding well to treatment.
A short while later, to my surprise a friend shared on Facebook that she was no more. I was devastated. She died just when we had thought that she had recovered.”
After the treatment in Nairobi, we went back to Mtwapa where iI changed my diet to plenty of fruits, vegetables and water.
“Finances were depleted even before I could go back to Nairobi again for treatment and had to stay at home with my daughter-in-law.”
“I took a glass of milk every morning, fruits and chakula nakula ikiwa moto sana, (I would eat very hot food with lots of chilli sometimes). I would also take vegetables, cassava and sweet potatoes but minimised starch intake,” says Margaret.
There were side effects after the chemo and radiotherapy. She had wounds in her anus, heartburn, stomach upset and diarrhoea because of the treatment regimes. She was very weak because of low blood and I became bald.
“At Texas, a patient who slept next to me died simply because she had about 30 radiotherapy sessions: Hio moto ni mbaya... Ilimchoma figo miguu zikaanza kufura…kumbe ni kidney failure. The heat is so bad that it destroyed her kidneys… her legs got swollen,” she narrates.
“For one month, my daughter-in -law was with me, we had no money for medication so we turned to the diet and it worked.”
In January 2019, the family decided to take her back to Texas to complete her treatment after she responded well to treatment.
They took her back to Kilifi to be checked by her previous doctor and he was shocked on the improvement. He had suggested that they have a check-up before heading back to Texas.
“A checkup was done and to every one’s surprise I was found to be cancer free. I did another check-up a month later and another checkup in March and cancer was gone. We did check-up in other hospitals and it was all gone,” she recalls.
For now, things are going back to normal for Margaret. Though she has lost weight, she is slowly working on regaining it by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.