Dionisia went for eight chemotherapy sessions in 2018, whose side-effects she describes as excruciatingly painful and triggering vomiting.
“On reaching home, I did not even know where I was. I could not do anything by myself. I had memory lapses. On the fourth day, I received an injection to boost white blood cells that would help fight opportunistic injections. My pain eased,” she says.
After her fourth chemo, her body was temporarily paralysed and on touching the ground, she would feel as though her feet were being pricked. On the cold floor, chilling impulses would rush over her body.
She says the first six chemotherapy sessions cost Sh50,000 each, of which NHIF would offset Sh25,000. Medical consultation would consume another Sh4,200. More tests costing Sh20,000 would establish if the drugs work.
She bore the full cost of the last two sessions.
She went for 30 radiotherapy sessions at MP Shah Hospital in Nairobi and completed them in June 2019.
Prof Nicholas Abinya, the University of Nairobi’s head of haematology/oncology programme, says there are three types of cancer treatment: surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy.
He recently told the Star the drugs used during chemotherapy vary, depending on the type and stage of cancer as well as the patient’s age and health.
“Drugs used to treat cancer can be very dangerous and toxic. An expert needs to assess thoroughly whether a patient’s body can take in chemo and survive by checking the patients’ performance status,” he said.
The treatments in most cases are combined, depending on the type of cancer.
“If surgery and chemotherapy are administered to the wrong patient, they die,” Abinya told the Star recently.
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Last year, Dionisia won her battle against cancer, but she takes a drug every day costing Sh2,000 monthly and an injection every three months that costs Sh20,000.
She is also on a special diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and must avoid meat, unless the occasional white meat.
“Cancer treatment is so expensive. I was lucky I have an NHIF in addition to the job medical cover. I, however, exhausted them and had to do with contributions from colleagues, family and friends. The government should make it affordable and accessible to all Kenyans,” she says.
Dionisia has formed a support group, bringing together cancer patients in her locality, where she encourages them that the diagnosis is not a death sentence.
She also advocates for regular screening, especially for breast cancer and cancer of the cervix.
Her lowest moments in fighting the disease were when many of her friends deserted her as well as losing her breast and her hair.
She had to wear a wig but it was so hot that after two months, she gave up on it and had the pain of people enquiring why she had clean-shaven.
“My friends abandoned me as they feared I would request them for financial assistance or help in the house in cleaning up. I’m grateful to God that I have friends who stood with me. My employer, colleagues and family have been on my side,” she says.