2014 Update on 9 year old Kevin Githinji who received life-saving financial assistance in 2012: We are delighted to share with you that two years on from treatment Kevin is doing really well and looking vibrant. His treatment comprised of hybrid regime with 4 cycles of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. As is often the case in Kenya the road to wellness for people living with cancer is extremely difficult. It is difficult to get a diagnosis, it is difficult to know where to find information and it is extremely difficult meet the medical bill expenses. Faraja helps patients and their families by sign-posting the best way to navigate this path.
For the full story please read the below article which was printed in The Parents Magazine September 2013.
"Faraja has become another home for Kevin and I wish there were more such institutions to assist cancer victims who are not financially endowed. I recall when Kevin was diagnosed with cancer, we thought he would die and we were distressed about it. It didn’t help that we had many financial challenges and my wife and I always quarrelled and blamed each other. However when we began to re-evaluate our relationship with a sober mind, we realized we had to work in harmony for the sake of our son, our relationship and the rest of our children. We are happy that God continues to answer our prayers and we thank the cancer centre for making our son’s treatment possible," Joseph, Kevin’s father.
Nine-year old Kevin Githinji is a jovial and active boy. He wears a woolen cap at home and in school to cover his bald head- a side effect of the cancer treatment he is undergoing. Hi classmates often tease him, some forcefully removing his cap and laughing at his bald head. Kevin has learnt to laugh it off and humorously say he is unique like captain Kojak in the popular TV-series. Kevin has learnt to cope with his disease, thanks to his doping family. His father Joseph Runyora narrates to Mwaura Muigana their struggles in search for a cure for their ailing son.
Kevin was not born with any special needs. His predicament began in June 2012 when he was 8 years old and up and about like his other siblings. His mother noticed a swelling on his leg and another on his neck. She squeezed them expecting the boy to flinch but he didn't. They were painless. She monitored them for a while hoping they would clear but they didn't go away. Gradually Kevin lost appetite and at times couldn't swallow solids.
Joseph and his wife borrowed money severally from the women groups where his wife was a member, until they couldn't be advanced any more. With medication, the swellings cleared and Kevin's appetite was back to normal. However, the swelling around the neck recurred and Joseph sought assistance from his friends and relatives to raise Ksh 16,500 to take him to the Aga Khan University Hospital for the test earlier recommended by the specialist. The test re-confirmed the Hodgki's lymphoma diagnosis and since none of the doctors clearly explained what it was, joseph turned to the Internet from where he learnt it was a rare type of cancer.
Joseph says they were lucky to get their son's chemotherapy sponsored by Faraja Cancer support for a cost of Ksh 25,000 per session. With the treatment, Kevin's appetite started to improve, although he had a hard time after each chemotherapy session, as he often got sick with nausea. Hi s hair started falling off and skin colour also darkened soon after he started treatment. The chemotherapy sessions are over and he is now undergoing radiotherapy.
"Faraja has become another home for Kevin and I wish there were more such institutions to assist cancer victims who are not financially endowed. I also wish such institutions could be more supported by the government, corporate organizations, NGOs and individuals. I recall when Kevin was diagnosed with cancer, we thought he would die and we were distressed about it. It didn't help that we had many financial challenges and my wife and I always quarreled and blamed each other. However when we began to re-evaluate our relationship with a sober mind, we realized we had to work in harmony for the sake of our son, our relationship and the rest of our children. We are happy that God continues to answer our prayers and we thank the cancer centre for making our son's treatment possible," says Joseph.
When I arrived at Faraja, I wanted to find out how Faraja works and understand the breadth of work that the charity undertakes. With only two full time employees and approximately 40 volunteers, the charity's main work is to offer a wide range of complementary therapies for patients, counseling and a drop in centre. The centre has in excess of 20 patients per day using the services and I quickly realised that Faraja relies heavily on the support from some amazing volunteers who are key to keeping the services running.
Faraja have plans to set up other similar drop-in centres offering complementary therapies and counseling to help reach patients across Kenya and they need as much help as possible with fundraising to make their plans a reality.
I had an amazing time at Faraja meeting the staff, volunteers and patients and now I am back in the UK, I am determined to do what I can to support the charity. The first thing that I will help with is inputting in to a training manual for volunteers to enhance the support and information they need. I have been involved in organising fundraising activities for many years in the UK and want to help Faraja as much as I can with the marketing of fundraising activities.
I will visit Faraja again hopefully in 2014 and I know that they will have made significant progress with what they are trying to achieve because of the dedication and enthusiasm of the people who work for the charity.
Weighing only 37kgs it made it difficult for the doctors to operate. However 3 months after her first surgery, she had gained 5kgs and was ready for a second major operation called an 'esophagectomy' which removes cancerous cells in the oesophagus. Three-quarters of Monica's oesophagus and the upper part of her stomach were removed as they were severely affected by the cancer.
After a month in intensive care, Monica was discharged and referred to MP Shah Hospital, Cancer Care Kenya for chemotherapy and radiotherapy to get rid of the final cancerous cells at the cost of KSH 500,000. There was no way Monica could afford this, coming from a very poor background (her previous operation was funded by wellwishers).
With no hope, she visited the Kenya Cancer Association to request financial assistance and was referred on to Faraja Cancer Support Trust.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2009. Following a mastectomy and chemotherapy, I was referred to Cancer Care Kenya for radiotherapy. I learned about Faraja Cancer Support in my first week of treatment. I met the staff who was very accommodating. They talked me through their various complementary therapies, such as Reiki, body massage and movement to mention a few. I also got a lot of literature from the books in their library on how to live positively as a breast cancer survivor. Faraja has consistently provided these services free of charge. They engage talented, highly competent professionals who are extremely friendly. I personally enjoy these services, which I have been encouraged to practice in my everyday life. Now, I love doing yoga regularly. I have nothing but good things to say about Faraja Support Centre and I strongly recommend them for any support they can get from any well wishers.
There are programs for exercise, diet, Reiki, massage, and others. Due to time constraints I settled for the movement class on Thursday 5-6 pm that is run by Sadhna. It was my first time to take such a class. It is a gentle type of yoga with emphasis on breathing, physical posture, strength building with a little meditation and relaxation. I started to feel the benefits right away and I can practice them at home. Most of us start off being quite stiff in the initial stages. However, Sadhna always reminds us that it is most important to listen to your body and not push it beyond its limits.
I have also attended the regular support group meetings where patients and survivors share their experiences. I felt welcome and supported and there is no pressure to share. I would like to acknowledge my gratitude to Shaira for her courage and efforts in putting this centre together, the volunteers at the desk who always send me reminders of classes and activities and encourage me to go, and to Sadhna, for her great dedication, patience, time and generosity in giving us such a wonderful class.I would encourage everyone who is going through cancer treatment to visit Faraja. They will be glad they went.
I have also really benefitted from the nutrition session I had. I used to consume milk, eggs and red meat. But since I met with the nutritionist, I feel a lot better as I now have a balanced diet.Faraja's staff is kind and they give patients the hope of recovery. I would recommend Faraja to other cancer patients so that they too can be advised on a proper diet, become a little more active and maybe even have a massage at the end of it all.
I have undergone several treatments for lymphatic drainage with Ayala for my advanced lymphodoema on my right arm, and the therapy has really helped reduce the swelling and pain. Ayala has also been very helpful to me; while she was performing a treatment on me, she noticed a swelling on my neck and informed me and requested that I seek immediate assistance, and Shaira was kind enough to arrange for an oncologist to see me at the centre. I was sent for a scan and then radiotherapy.
I have already started encouraging other patients at home and when I go for my clinics and check-ups at Kenyatta hospital to come to Faraja and benefit from all that they do.
Faraja was to become a lifesaver for me, and for many others. I always found it welcoming and a peaceful place to be. I have enjoyed many cups of tea whilst relaxing and resting after radiotherapy treatments,talking to both personnel and co-patients when I did not feel like rushing outside. I have met many friendly people and shared experiences both with co-patients from Kenya and from neighbouring countries.
We are extremely fortunate to have this new facility available to us in Kenya. It was a great bonus to be able to partake in and enjoy all the facilities and complementary treatments on offer to patients. Nutrition was extremely useful; massage relaxing and restful; and the breathing exercises, Reiki and other healing were indeed most beneficial.I would recommend Faraja to all other patients, for its ambience, help and education in the form of videos and literature. Mostly I just enjoyed having a place to go for a while each day, rather than just finishing my appointment and having to dash out to the car.
So far I have managed to attend several movement and Reiki classes, and a nutrition session, with more therapies booked for before I finish my radiotherapy treatment. For the therapies I have attended, I have really benefitted from movement and nutrition, not forgetting group sessions where cancer survivors meet and share their experiences on their battle with cancer.
I thank Faraja because when I was diagnosed with cancer I remembered a story that was in the daily paper a few years ago about a young lady who was diagnosed with the same three years ago when she was 19 years old, and I really wanted to meet her but I didn't know how. I was so fortunate that when I attended the group session, I found this lady who had also attended the same session.I would really recommend Faraja Cancer Support to other cancer patients and survivors because there you realize that you have a future full of life. You experience relief from all the stress you get from talk of the illness. You also get to learn more about the disease from a variety of resourceful materials available at Faraja for free!
I benefited from all the therapies I attended like Reiki, movement, counselling, but mostly from the nutrition session I had with Smita. At the time, I had a loss of appetite and Smita gave me some solutions for this which really helped.
I also had the chance to interact with volunteers and patients who shared their personal experiences with me and encouraged me to not lose hope. I would totally encourage other cancer patients to come to Faraja for assistance, support and encouragement because Faraja gives a new meaning of life to the hopeless.Finally, I'd like to thank the entire Faraja team for all its support and compassion and I hope you keep it up!
She began to give up hope; it has been hard for us all. I have had to give up my job to look after my mum. It hit me that we should come to Cancer Care and Faraja and get some advice. We spoke to the staff and were given a lot of hope; we decided to try radiotherapy at Cancer Care and the complementary therapies offered at Faraja, and my mum has improved significantly since.It has been very difficult for me emotionally and I have often felt incredibly lonely and helpless, but I have found the friendliness I need at Faraja. I used to accompany my mum for her therapies and the staff noticed how low I was and suggested that I come for counselling sessions with Nushka. My aunt, my mum and I each had individual counselling sessions and then we had one together. My mum and I also attended Suchinta's Creative Holistic Integration classes. I feel so much more relaxed and positive now and this has uplifted my mum as well. I was advised to try to enjoy my life as much as possible and not be consumed by my mum's illness, as well as to use my creativity to write about my life as her son. It has been a great way of getting my anger and sadness out.
Since then, I have been a regular visitor to Faraja, mostly on Wednesdays and Fridays. I had Reiki with the Lotus Seva Healing Group led by Kamal Tolia. The first time the ladies prayed for me, I walked out feeling cheerful and encouraged. On Fridays I attend the Movement sessions with Elaine, which have made my body relax and become more flexible. The wonderful moment here is relaxation with soothing music after the exercises. The mind experiences lots of peace.Faraja offers crucial facilities for those affected by cancer. There is a need now to increase awareness of what it offers.