We have heard many stories and accounts of events from cancer patients but not much from care takers. These are the people who sacrifice their lives, time and dreams to take care of cancer patients. They are the individuals that give hope to the patients and ensure that they give them all the love and support needed for them to get better. This is the story of Aida Ssunna, a sister to Alice Nankinga a 21 year old lady who got diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Alice Nankinga was a much jollier and ambitious person before she got cancer. She had always wanted to be lawyer and worked hard at school. She used to play basketball despite the fact that she was short, played soccer, loved swimming and still does, she was a sportsperson. She was a normal person before.
I found out that Alice had cancer in 2014, my family and I were all in shock since we had never had cancer in the family and we didn’t know what it meant to have cancer. We were really scared and the first thought that came to my mind was that Alice was going to die. This was shocking news for me because my sister had to undergo a major operation three days after her diagnosis so we as a family had to organize money immediately if that operation was to take place.
We all came together as a family and put what we had on table, by that time my mother was working with total Uganda, so she and her friends raised some money and that is how we managed to get the funds for the operation. Alice’s friends got concerned as well and started to run a campaign in the media to help the family. Alice’s friends all the way from her primary level to the ones she had made at Makerere Business school came together and decided to help and support her, “we have to help Alice”, they said. This was just the beginning as the time I spent in the hospital with her was much harder.
My sister’s hospital time was very difficult because it is very hard to take care of someone who is undergoing Chemotherapy treatment, it is very painful. I would even say this treatment is worse than the cancer itself. On those days when she had to have the treatment, Alice would lose her senses, she would be very weak, she would not hear anyone, she would be vomiting and having diarrhea. It really put a strain on me because I was the one looking after her and my family trusted me to take care of her. After going through all of this pain, the doctors realized that chemotherapy was not working and a shift had to be taken to radiotherapy treatment. Personally it made me a stronger person because my sister was fighting hard to stay alive and I had to be strong for her. At this moment I made Alice my priority and believed that it made me stronger in faith. I believed in God and knew that he would make her better or provide a way for her not to die. At this moment my faith is much stronger because she has gotten better.
Amidst all that was happening we had to make sure that Alice got her medication and it was really expensive, so many people needed the same cancer medication at the time. The cancer institute could provide the basic medication as it was given to the patients for free but as the situation got more complicated the medication became expensive. Sometimes the medicine would be out of stock and I think it is simply because the patients were so many. Through all of this I realized that Mulago hospital has one of the best cancer institutes that I have been to, they try their level best to deliver good services to the patients. It is just that people do not appreciate and want to be given first class treatment but this is a third world country, what do you expect?
Before getting better Alice had an operation in February this year and a few days later we were told that she had developed three more tumors, one in the lungs, another besides her kidneys and the other in her lower abdomen. My family and I got scared and that is when some of her friends started a campaign to take her to India. Unfortunately the money that was collected was not enough so we decided to take her to Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi and do some tests. The doctor at that hospital told us that Alice’s situation was not going to be helped because according to the results it was too late, she was given six to nine months to live. My sister had ascites, her stomach was swollen like that of a pregnant woman. We came back home and all hope was lost. Amidst all of this, one of Alice’s friends called his father in Canada and told him about her situation. He later contacted us and the doctors in Canada offered us an alternative treatment that Alice is now using. There is a lot of hope for Alice to get better with this treatment and I believe that she is going to get cured. This treatment is natural and just entails one to change their diet. I now understand cancer more and have learnt that it grows in an acidic environment. The treatment is to enable my sister’s body to become less acidic because this stops the growth of the cancer cells and leads them to die. When these cells die, they leave the body so one has to use a decaffeinated enema to bring out the broken cells. This is what is happening to Alice and I believe that the tumors are shrinking. She is expected to go back for checkup after three months so that we get to see how far the tumors have shrunk. There is a lot of progress because the ascites/ swollen stomach is no more, Alice has a six pack. (She says this with a lot of joy and laughter). She is currently on a vegetable and fruit diet with a few supplements.
My sister’s life is getting back to normal but my problem is that people do not understand that Alice is just like anybody else regardless of whether she is sick or not or was very sick before. She still has a life as a person, she can swim, go out with her friends, go racing and do anything that she feels like because she has gone through it all. She has been in a bad place and is now back, we expect her to be a happy person. I do not expect people to complain when Alice posts a picture on her social media looking good since they contributed money to her well-being. She feels better as a person and this can be seen on the outside of her body, she is more positive and even wants to go back to school, she wants to do the things that she missed out on in the three years that she has spent battling cancer.
I advise families with cancer victims and care takers of cancer patients to stay positive. This is because once you do so, your patient will see light ahead. I urge them to love their patients, listen to them, ask them what they need and understand them. This is because we usually take care of people but we do not know what they need or even understand what they are going through. They need to ask them what they need and really talk to them and be their friends. I think that is the better way of looking after someone because it helps them get better, they know that they are not alone since there is that other person that is willing to go through what they are going through with them.