Thursday, May 26, 2011



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

When in December 2011 Kenya’s Minister for Medical Services, Prof Peter Anyang Nyongo’ stunned friends and relatives across the globe that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, it was a revelation to behold in a country where political leaders are always reluctant to reveal the state of their health.

What I did not know was that at the same hospital in Nairobi, I would be diagnosed with the same prostate cancer, only that mine would be more advanced than that of my professor friend.

Wednesday last week was no ordinary day for me although I had been ailing for the past seven to eight weeks. It was the day fate took me to the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi to seek a second opinion from a specialist on my persistent indigestion that had worsened with time though in retrospect, the signs were all there to see as early as October 2010 when I started losing my appetite, weight and desire to go to the gym.

On being asked to lie on her table, one squeeze on my loins made her realize instantly that I could be having a more serious problem than I thought. She immediately ordered that I go for a CT-SCAN at the nearby M P Shah Hospital because in her opinion, the hospital had the best facility in the city.

Two days later, the story was out. I had an advanced prostate cancer that had spread beyond the confines of the glands.

Within one hour of receiving the information I had to be rushed to an urologist who ordered PSA test to be carried out to confirm a few details of the extent. Two hours later, I was back in my house contacting my family locally and abroad to break the news to them. It was the most harrowing moment in our lives. We did at first not know how to handle it because in our family, we had never gone through this experience except for our last born sister who lost her husband to cancer 15 years ago.

By Friday 11pm, Professor Nyongo and his wife Dorothy arrived at my house having been informed by my brother-in-law Peter Odoyo. Having gone through the same experience just a few months ago, they gave me the first therapy. They urged me to be positive, go through all the tests and let the specialists take over.

What was annoying in this episode was the fact that the two doctors I had consulted earlier failed to recognize the obvious physical signs of mass formed around my rectum. For this reason, I lost nearly three months of precious time I could have used to start the fight.

As I write this article, I’m lying in my hospital bed at M P Shah Hospital for the initial management process. I have gone through ultra sound examination, bioscopy, MRI and bone scanning, all intended to confirm the extent of the spread.

On admission to a hospital with cancer, I have learnt the value of relatives and caring friends.

My niece Julie Aura who was with me when the news was being broken remained calm, even calmer than me despite her tender age of 23. My nephews Moses Aluodo and Barry Odhuno whose father died of rare cancer 15 years ago took time off and got me admitted as quickly as possible. Friends and their friends started pouring in.

When it was realized that I was anemic due to low blood count and the hospital needed donors of my blood group, volunteers started pouring in. It was really humbling experience.

Now that I have done the tests; I must start the hard road to do my battle that may go beyond the borders should my doctors advice whichever way because according to them, my condition will probably require a three pronged approach; hormonal injections, radiology and chemotherapy and a combination of expertise of diverse backgrounds.

Because this disease comes like a thief in the night; it has taught me one thing- that we need regular medical examinations if for nothing else but to know our status. Another thing; not all doctors are the same and diligent. Some are; others are not. Those who are reckless can cost you dearly in the long run.For the days that I will remain in this hospital I will keep you updated on the treatment regime that my doctors will have put together and update you on my progress.

Now I value Professor Nyongo’s campaign for comprehensive healthcare insurance for all with the state of the art medical facilities in the country. Yes, according to my doctor, 84 new cases are reported in Kenya daily with thousands more that go unnoticed.