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Photo of
 Lucy Atieno

HEALTH

Cervical Cancer And The Tragedies It Brings

The pain and the battles women endure after a diagnosis.

BY Beryl Karimi-La Patrona

Jan 20, 2023, 12:52 PM

Photo of

 Lucy Atieno
They say that when it rains it pours, and this has been the case with Lucy Atieno. She went through three different corrective surgeries after she suffered from fistula for two years, and then she had a disc prolapse that saw her go through a spine surgery, and before she could fully recuperate, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer after months of acute discomfort and one misdiagnosis after the other.

In this interview, we talk about her experience with cervical cancer, her marriage, and what society needs to do to make the journey easier for patients battling cancer. 

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself.

A: I am 33, a mother of one, and an ambassador for fistula. I also have a Bachelor's degree in community health and development. I have worked with several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) over the years but I am jobless at the moment.

Q: What happened to your job?

A: I got laid off after being out of work for more than three months because I was battling cervical cancer and could not work.

Q: I am so sorry about that. When were you diagnosed with cervical cancer?

A: I was diagnosed in April 2022.

Q: Tell me about the diagnosis. How did it come to be? 

A: I used to have recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) which always made me uncomfortable. I went to several hospitals for treatment but things never changed. I would be fine for two weeks then it would recur. 

In December 2021, I decided to go for screening at Migori referral hospital and they diagnosed me with cervicitis. I was given drugs for two weeks. I felt better for two months but the problem popped up again in February.
 
I then went to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching & Referral Hospital in Kisumu where I did another screening and was told my cervix was not looking good. They did the high vaginal swab, and when the results came out that I still had cervicitis but this time around I was booked to see a gynecologist.

The gynecologist recommended that I do a biopsy because the screening results were not conclusive, I waited for the biopsy results for roughly one month, and unfortunately, the results came back stating that I had cervical cancer.

Q: How did you move forward from there? 

A: I went for further management at the Eldoret Teaching and Referral Hospital where I was diagnosed with stage one cervical cancer. 

I was booked for a hysterectomy at Palm Care Sinai Hospital in Eldoret. After the procedure was done I had to wait for the pathology results to help in knowing whether the disease had spread. 

I waited for close to one month again for the results, unfortunately, it came out that the disease had spread to my lymph nodes and that took it to stage 3C. I had to start a new journey again at Texas Cancer Center in Nairobi for radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and brachytherapy treatment.

Q: For how long did you receive treatment at Texas Cancer Center?

A: For four months. I Still go for reviews even though I was declared cancer free on 29th October 2022.

Q: Is that the period when you lost your job?

A: Yes that was the period.

Q: Were you compensated in any way?

A: No it was just a contract.

Q: Did the job enable you to afford your treatment or how were you able to pay for it?

A: My friends and relatives came together and did a fundraiser for me. I've been surviving on people's contributions up to this very moment. Where I worked, they don't usually give any other cover to the employees apart from the mandatory employee National Health and Insurance Fund (NHIF) required by Kenyan law.

Q: What was the most challenging part of the treatment?

A: Chemotherapy days were hell, I remember I almost gave up on my last session but I'm glad I made it through. Radiotherapy sessions became hard towards the last days too, I could be admitted frequently for some conditions I didn't even understand. My hosts though were a couple who were very understanding. They did everything to make sure I was well. 

Q: Was your husband supportive of you when you were going through treatment?

A: He supported my treatment a little bit but was never there physically for me when I needed him the most. He only visited me at the hospital once when I underwent surgery in April last year. After that, I never saw him until I finished my treatment. 

Q: Has your marriage survived that? 

A: Unfortunately my husband married another woman to bear him more children while I was in the hospital battling cancer. I felt so devastated and walked out of my marriage. I am a mother of one.

Q: How did you find out he had married someone else? 

A: I went back home in December and that's the time a new wife was introduced to me. She was already 4 months pregnant at the time.

Q: What are you struggling the most with right now besides the end of your marriage?

A: I am struggling to get a sustainable job so that I can take care of my son who has just started going to school and also take care of my physiotherapy bills.

Q: How can society be more helpful to people with cancer?

A: I urge society to support cancer patients psychologically and financially. It is never an easy journey to walk alone.

Men should also strive to be there for their physical and emotional partners. It is the least a partner can do for the other. It is what I wish I had had during those months I stayed in the hospital getting treatment.

Read More: All You Need To Know About Caesarean Section