“As a people are we doing enough to save ourselves from the ravages of this disease? What more can we do?”
These days I hear about a lot of Africans dying of cancer. Is this about what we eat, our environment, ignorance, the hardship and poverty created by reckless corrupt leadership or our genes?
In the West, the governments and citizens are investing very heavily in research in order to find prevention, treatment and cure and avoid these deaths but what are African leaders doing?
Can we not do the same and create awareness? I am always appalled that in most African cases, the disease is usually diagnosed late and many people die needlessly. There is still this thing about juju and secrecy to avoid stigmatisation. But would you rather die in horrific pains than be stigmatised for whatever reason anyone likes?
I think that the time has come for many Africans to start the health care debate and help people who cannot afford the treatments which our rich politicians can buy abroad with our money. I have spoken and written about the health and hospital care tourism and made many enemies but no one seems to be listening so long as the rich continue to afford these treatments abroad. But what about the poor I ask.
I was prompted into writing this after I received the news that two of us have again died of the disease and I remembered the conversation I had with another dying friend.
As he lay on his sick bed looking gaunt he recited the hardship of his life and wondered why he also had to go through this too. I was moved to tears but had to remain calm and strong for him.
His story was that he became a husband to his mum and father to his siblings at the young age of 23 when his father walked away with another woman who also had children for him while his mistress. The woman suddenly died after many years of living with his father leaving the children for him to bring up but he could not manage. Meanwhile, he gave up school to help his mum run the family and ensured that all his siblings had good education. They all did and many got married before him. As he was about to get married in his early 40s dad came back with the children of that mistress who died and blackmailed him into helping to raise them too. Again instead of becoming married and having his own family he acquired more children to bring up! His mum and dad while still squabbling because mum was unhappy that he dumped the children on him again died anyway. He married his best love who supported him with the children and they had their own children.
Wife mysteriously took ill and died of blood cancer leaving him with their young children. He fell apart and concluded that he is not meant to be happy in life and wanted to take his own life but his loving siblings were there for him. He took to the bottle and one of his sisters took him and the children and never looked back. His siblings including the mistress’ children have been nothing but loving and caring. They gave him the strength to kick the bottle habit.
However, as he tried to get back on his feet he was diagnosed with cancer too. The despair and worries about the way his life had been going did not help because he deteriorated very rapidly and died. His siblings and children may never get over his death. The most painful one is that his daughter who wants to be a doctor keeps wondering if she would ever find a cure for cancer in memory of her parents.
Thinking about the two recent dead members of our community, the thought of this man and his family rushed through my mind and I wondered if our African leaders will ever invest in research to find out why many of us are dropping like flies because of this disease. Statistics show that Caucasian females begin presenting with cancer from the age of 50 thus the massive drive to test and check over 50s women from their 50th birthday anniversary. However, Africans present earlier with some as early as 27. The most painful thing is that despite this knowledge we still present late with the disease and die when many of our counterparts are surviving. Still there is no visible effort on the part of our leaders to find an answer and not many people can afford the simple checks that abound these days.
As a people are we doing enough to save ourselves from the ravages of this disease? What more can we do?
May I please take this opportunity to invite everyone to our cancer awareness and fundraising event on 3rd October in London? Please join us. It is free but you can buy a tee shirt to support our efforts. There is no obligation to do so if you cannot. The awareness will be worth more than anything else. Please see flier on my FB wall. See you all.