Theresa is a primary school dropout, so she could not at any one time suspect that the symptoms she was having were related to ovarian cancer. She had had continuous virginal bleeding for months. It never stopped.
Apiiti Theresa, 54, comes from the remote village of Serere district, eastern Uganda. She is a mother to twelve children and several grandchildren. She has fought with cancer for three years. Her referral from Mulago hospital was in January 2019. Her treatment journey has been tumultuous, full of setbacks it has not been a smooth ride. Listening to her story then, one could tell that she was hopeless. Her eyes reflected the internal fear that she will not survive, however, this is something she never wanted at one time to show her daughter, who is also her caregiver at the hostel.
It all started with bleeding and pain in the lower abdomen, years after her menopause (Post-menopausal bleeding). This is one of the common symptoms of ovarian cancer. What is sad is the fact that 90% of all the female residents we interview on admission regard it as witchcraft initially. Theresa is not an exception. She wasted her first years of sickness in shrines to no avail. Her family took her to Mbale Regional Referral Hospital Main Hospital where she diagnosed with fibroids in the uterus after Biopsy. With all the treatment in that period, there was no change. The bleeding intensified. A referral was made to Mulago Main Hospital.
She like many others has not had a smooth journey. After Biopsy was done, she was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer. Two weeks later she was put on radiotherapy for two months. This did not bring any positive results. Surgery was suggested. It was very costly with the last price at 1.2 million. The family could not raise this amount. CCF held successful discussions with authorities. This amount was waivered off. Her uterus was removed because cancer had spread to other parts of her body. The surgery brought a lot of physical and emotional trauma. After surgery, she was put on Chemotherapy a round of 9 cycles in space of 2 months.
On 16th/08/2019, Theresa was discharged from the hostel pending further review in late September. We hope she is declared Cancer free. We are glad that CCF has been part of Apiiti’s treatment journey. It brings us great joy and contentment when we see a successful treatment journey like Apiiti’s.
From Apiiti’s story, one can say that we still have to go an extra mile in creating awareness and educating our patients about what to expect after menopause. Women need to know that menopausal bleeding is never normal, and it may be an early symptom of endometrial, ovarian or cervical cancer. Any bleeding, or even spotting should trigger a visit to the hospital.