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Triumph against cancer: I was given 25 days but here I am :: Kenya

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Ruth Wanjiku, 21 years. [Wilberforce Okwiri/Standard]

Sometime in 2014, I noticed a small pimple below my knee. I was 17 years then and thought it was just one of those that show up during my period. It didn’t bother me much since I knew it would disappear.

Whenever I was in the shower, I would notice that the pimple was growing bigger, but still, this didn’t arouse my curiosity. To me, it was just a stubborn pimple that took longer than usual to disappear.

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I went on with life but I noticed a change every day – the pimple grew bigger. Slipping in some of my favourite jeans started giving me trouble. After a while, the tiny pimple turned into a lump, I could no longer ignore it.

In August the same year, I went to hospital but the initial tests didn’t reveal much. I wasn’t feeling any pain so I wasn’t put on medication. The doctor recommended a biopsy. I had never come across such a term so I didn’t know the route my life was about to take.

I went for the biopsy but I didn’t have the money to take the specimen for further analysis to another laboratory since the hospital didn’t offer this service. I stayed with my specimen for around two weeks until I raised the cash. I took it to a laboratory but I was told it had expired. I was back to the drawing board after spending close to Sh20,000.

My grandmother who knew what I was going through advised me to seek a different opinion from another hospital. In December 2014, I gathered some courage and saw a different doctor who after examining the lump said I needed another biopsy.

In January 2015, I had a surgery and my sample was taken to Kenyatta National Hospital. In February, my results were out and the diagnosis was that I had Osteogenic Sarcoma. This is a cancer that starts in the bone. It often starts in the ends of the bones where new bone tissue forms as a young person grows.

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I had heard about cancer before, but now I was the one being told I had it and the only question I remember asking my doctor what Osteogenic Sarcoma is and how are we going to treat it?

My doctor was brutally honest with me; he told me I could lose my leg. This was news I wasn’t ready for, I went back home and kept it to myself. Every time my grandmother asked me what the doctor said, I told her everything was okay and that the doctor assured me there was nothing serious.

Towards the end of February, the lump was three times bigger now, I called my doctor and told him I was ready for the amputation.

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In mid-March, the leg was amputated and I started a new chapter in my life. I embraced the new me and I was the one encouraging other patients in the ward. I stayed in hospital for two months and by the time I was discharged, I had learnt to use crutches.

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Good Samaritan

Life out of hospital wasn’t easy, I lost a few friends but also got new ones who have been supportive all along.

One of the challenges I have had to live with is getting a job since not many people are ready to employ someone like me. One day, on my way from hospital to visit a friend, I met a Good Samaritan who I exchanged contacts with and she later called me with a job offer.

I worked for a while, saved some cash and started my own business.

In June last year, I started having chest pains. When I went to the hospital, I was told I had pneumonia. The pain was a bit intense and the drugs I was given didn‘t seem to work. I went back to hospital and requested my doctor for a further checkup.

He recommended an X-Ray that showed some mass in my lungs. This was terrifying since I didn’t know what this mass meant.

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I was told I had to do a CT-scan which would clearly show what was going on in there. The scan showed some growth and to verify whether it was cancerous or not, I had to do a biopsy again. The results were out within 14 days and to my shock I had lung cancer. This time I thought I would die.

My doctor recommended chemotherapy and two sessions into the treatment, he said instead of shrinking, the growth was two times bigger. He told me I had 25 days to live.

The cancer was in Stage 4 and the only solution at hand was removing the lung but he wasn’t sure I would make it through the surgery.

I underwent the surgery, stayed in ICU for a few days, I was moved to HDU and finally to the general ward. By the time I left hospital, I was 38 kgs from 69 kgs. I stayed positive throughout the treatment and by the time I was completing the other five sessions of chemotherapy, I had put on some weight. My doctor said my recovery process was a miracle.

Towards the end of last year, I was done with the treatment, my hair started growing back and within a few months, I started feeling like the person I was before cancer. In February this year, I was declared cancer free and I live a normal life despite losing a lung and a leg. I live alone and save for a few things like running that I miss, I go on with life as I used to.

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