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I Inspiration

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Breast cancer made me stronger and inspired me to start breast cancer kenya

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“My name is Josephine Sitawa, I am in I.T. And I am a wife plus a mother of 3 boys.  

I was born in Nairobi, but later on we moved to western Kenya with my mum when my dad got transferred to Mombasa. I grew up partly in Nairobi and partly in Webuye Town.

Being diagnosed….

I was diagnosed in February 2014 with Non Invasive ductal Carcinoma Early Stage. I remember on that day, I couldn’t believe that I had Breast Cancer, I wished it was a dream that I would soon wake up from.

I didn’t know how to tell anyone. I remember crying in the bus on my way to my aunt’s place. She is a retired nurse so I guess she knew something was definitely wrong immediately she saw me.

I didn’t tell her but just put the charts on the table and went to look for food. Later on I went back home.

The next day I went for a full body scan and some more x-rays to show if the cancer had spread. Luckily for me, it hadn’t spread beyond the breast. I wasn’t ready to tell anyone so I arranged for an operation immediately.

The doctors told me they can do a lumpectomy to remove the Lump or do a mastectomy to remove the whole boob. I chose to do mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.

Later on the Doctors said at times, radiotherapy may interfere with reconstructed area and so I opted for Mastectomy alone with reconstruction later. Of which I have so far done reconstruction and I am remaining with one phase of Fat Graft Breast Reconstruction.

A day before the Operation I went to work as usual, that was 22nd Feb. 2014. I told no one that I was sick.  In the afternoon, I left the office for home; I left our secretary with a sealed envelope for my boss. Then I booked into hospital. I was scared, I knew I was going to die and I had no hope of coming out of the hospital, and so I had literally cleaned my desk at work. The operation was successful.

A few days after the operation, a nurse came to re-do the dressing, I was so shocked of how I looked that I told her to just ensure everything is covered, I couldn’t believe that that was me.

I remember after that I buried myself in sleep, thanks also to some of the medicines I was taking; I didn’t need to talk to anyone. My life literally shifted to my bedroom.

Later I did 6 cycles of Chemotherapy, it was tough, I was always in and out of hospital because of my blood level and had to undergo a few blood transfusions. At one point they had to insert a chemo port in my chest when all my veins collapsed. I overcame that and later did 30 sessions of Radiotherapy.I am now doing very fine and I am on a 5 year hormone inhibitant medicine.

THE IMPACT ON MY LOVED ONES...

The effect on my family was quite something,I think they became sicker than me, my mum was very worried and everyone was always trying to reconcile with the situation. They gave me a lot of support.

My colleagues in office and school always ensured that I was comfortable; some of them often offered to do my duties for me. I received overwhelming support from everyone at my place of work. There were light moments though, one of my friends called me and she lacked what to say, and after 1 or 2 minutes of silence she asked ”Nywele isha katika?” I really laughed on phone with her, but she was relieved to learn that I was still myself. My friends from church always prayed with me and on several occasions I saw God’s manifestation during my healing process.

GETTING BACK UP...

I was always sleeping, if not on the bed in my room then on the couch in the living room. Then one day while on the couch my small boy came in with his friends, all of them less than 5 years Old. By then Dylan was barely 3 years Old. I heard him tell his friends in Swahili...”Tembeeni polepole,mnajua mamangu anakuanga mgonjwa?”… And I observed them tiptoe to the chair,sat, and then just started talking in whispers.That was the day I decided enough was enough, I had to get out of that situation. In addition there was a friend who was always encouraging me to step out and I decided to give it a try.

Up to when I finished with Chemotherapy, I didn’t know many people with Breast Cancer, Only 2 ladies, one in my church and the other one at my place of work. One of the directors in the College I was attending referred me to Faraja Cancer Care Support and I have never regretted that idea. At Faraja I got to be counseled and also met with so many cancer survivors, I enrolled for therapies which helped me a lot with the healing process.

THE EFFECT ON ME ....

Having gone through Breast Cancer has really changed the way I view everything today. I no longer take anything for granted. Coming from a no cancer background family, you can guess that ordinarily I wasn’t even interested in info related to Cancer and Non communicable diseases.

I knew that I can never have Cancer, or diabetes, etc. because they are hereditary. Shock on me when I got it. I have learned to accept my situation and use every opportunity I have to press for early diagnosis and awareness. I have evolved into a Councilor/advocate for Breast Cancer and most often people come to me for advice or to air opinions on the same. It inspired me to start Breast Cancer Kenya.

ABOUT BREAST CANCER KENYA

When I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, I didn’t know what to do, how to react, who to talk to, and I simply didn’t know anything about Cancer. Basically, I was NIL.

I had problems with where to get information I needed, and I always wanted to talk to someone going through what I was going through but who?Abu2

By then I didn’t know about Faraja Support and on several occasions during some of the many hospital visits I noticed that patient were being diagnosed but couldn’t afford even 1 cycle of treatment, some of them even didn’t have food to start with. I thought I should do something about this. We came together as Cancer Survivors and well wishers and decided to start Breast Cancer Kenya.

We are around 30 at the moment and hope to carry forward the Objectives of Breast Cancer Kenya.

Breast Cancer Kenya is currently registered in Kenya as a Non-Profit organization though we have plans of upgrading in future. It started as an online information platform but driven by the need for grassroots cancer awareness and people in need, we decided to get out of the internet and literally meet the people we were talking to.

Breast Cancer Kenya is an idea conceived in my place of work, most of my colleagues could come to me to ask me several questions about cancer, some of which I didn’t have ready answers. I found out that apart from the International Platforms, there was no readily available information that a Kenyan undergoing Breast Cancer treatment could relate to. So they used to tell me,”Josie, why don’t you do a column in the newspaper, that will help us a lot?” Then I went and talked to my doctors and they embraced the idea. I also received support from Africa Cancer Foundation and Faraja Cancer Care Support when we went through the Objectives.

OUR GOAL

The aim of the platform is to provide information related to Breast Cancer, answer questions as they are asked by the public and remove doubts as far as Breast cancer is concerned.

On this forum, patients, survivors, caregivers all get to share their stories on what they went through, how they encountered, the kind of food they ate while undergoing treatment that sustained them through the treatment, the shortcomings they went through or are going through and the type of exercises that worked for them especially for post mastectomy patients to prevent them from developing lymphedema.

We also have doctors and nurses in the house (of different professions) who are ready to assist and offer any info on the same.

We offer patient support too, and so far, I am glad to say that we got a sponsor for 1 patient who paid full Radiotherapy treatment for our Patient at Mp Shah Hospital, thank you Faraja.

We do counseling whereby people seek advice on conditions affecting them or their families and friends.

I get to share my story under the Name ‘My Josita’ of what I went through. This is a blog and articulates each process of treatment.

 

The role Breast Cancer Kenya Plays in the larger society

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Is mainly creating awareness, we provide topical information on social media platforms which have impacted positively to the society given the engagement.

We also got to do Cancer awareness at the Great Commission Ministry in Githurai 45 and realized that it is not that people don’t want to hear about cancer but there is no one to tell them about cancer.

We also did a cancer awareness talk at a Youth Investment Forum in Kawangware.

We are set to do Cancer Awareness last week of November at an annual Women’s Conference in Nakuru. We have other events lined up in which we are participating as volunteers.

Survivors get to share stories of what they went through and this really encourages people who may have fear of testing that there is life after Cancer.

 

My Piece of Advice

To all women, and men included, Breast Cancer nowadays is a disease for all, it no longer affects only the elderly and it’s no longer only hereditary. So all ladies should come out and be tested, go for regular Mammograms to clear any doubts you have, better late than sorry.Abu4

Learn to do self breast examination; you can get some of the instructions of how to do that from our Facebook page.

To those going through Breast Cancer

To those of you going through breast Cancer, cancer is not a death sentence. Take that bull by the horns and fight it, you will win. We are all here to support you in any way possible. Don’t keep it to yourself like I did, some ailments are better tackled with friends and relatives together.

Just remember this;

”Cancer makes a Woman out of you, and then you become a warrior. Survival isn’t so much about the body, but rather it is about the triumph of spirit”

Partner with us

We are open to partnerships, since all of us are working towards a common goal. We welcome support, advice or opinions that will help achieve this objective of eradicating cancer in Kenya.Feel free to get in touch to partner with us.

Contacts:

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Breast Cancer Kenya email is: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Phone Number

Breast Cancer Kenya numbers are: 

 020-4401056

+254790329958

+254732974450

Website:

www.breastcancerkenya.org

Facebook Page: Breast Cancer Kenya

https://www.facebook.com/breastcancerkenya

Twitter: @Ca_BreastKE

 

 

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Info@supamamas.co.ke
+254 708 115 132
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