Cancer is not an easy disease to manage anywhere. It is worse in the third world. I can testify to this. I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer on February 5, 2015. The challenges it brought still play on the screen of my mind as I write.
Fortunately, Mr. Ngwata is a survivor; he lived through it all and is now cancer free; one saved from the thousands knocking on deaths open door. The story in the September 9th edition of the Nation Newspaper clearly explains the struggles and challenges he went through to beat cancer against all odds.
I first saw him in the corridors of the hospital by the laboratory. It was hard not to notice the tall thin frail looking obviously very sick man transported in a wheelchair. Judging from his condition he needed help with pretty much everything. My assumption that the lady with him was his wife was proved right about a month or so later.
Mr. Ngwata had lymphatic cancer and at the time the doctor had not prescribed any cancer treatment due to his frail condition. His is a story of life and death. He beat cancer because aside from his own courage and determination, he got the financial help that most lack in this country.
Wednesdays were our checkup and chemotherapy administration days at Adventist hospital in Blantyre. Normal routine was to either get the lab work done in the morning or come in early around twelve to two pm ready for the doctor’s appointments. The earlier you got the labs done determined the time you saw the doctor.
Normally the doctor had to finish work/rounds at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (one of the adult cancer centres) and we had no option but to wait. Meanwhile, we would share notes with other patients and guardians. We became a support system of sorts.
Notes were compared of treatments, financial struggles, spiritual healing/faith, diet, the best hospitals/clinics and many more. Normally, clinic would start around four pm but sometimes it wouldn’t be until close to six or later that the doctor would show up at the hospital.
Imagine being a patient and in pain sitting there for hours in uncomfortable chairs. Imagine having to wait for a bed to be open so you can have chemotherapy administered after consultation with the doctor as most beds would be occupied. At times, we would be given a bed in the emergency room or the paediatrics out-patient section.
Bear in mind that though some of the patients had medical insurance, there were some who paid out of pocket meaning they paid not less than one hundred thousand Malawi Kwacha ($179) per chemo session with those without insurance paying close to or above three hundred thousand ($536).
There is a great need to have a hospital specializing in cancer care, one that knows what the patients are going through. For most the cost of the treatment is one they can’t afford or begin to think about.
As Irene Chidothe, a doctor currently undergoing orientation for radiation and oncology residency writes in her blogpost titled In The Meantime, time is not on their side. The fact that our clinics don’t offer radiation therapy is not good news either. Palliative chemotherapy is administered on patients while they wait for time to meet their maker.
Kuwala Health Media Limited (KUHEM) is a non-profit organization based in Mzuzu City in Northern Malawi providing rural community health awareness campaigns on preventable and curable diseases affecting the people. Main objectives are to sensitize the communities on how best they can live their lives to prevent and get help through drama, music, presentations from credible personnel, and dances.
KUHEM provides a link between the rural communities and qualified healthcare practitioners and donors by creating a platform where they [the people] get counselling and guidance on physical, health and spiritual issues; also where we as an NGO emphasizing on transparency and accountability can source funding and resources for the various community clinics and hospitals.
If you are interested in donating or supporting KUHEM on Kuwalamediamalawi@gmail.com or send a message to this blog and I will gladly connect you to them. Thank you for your support.