As we focus on October, the ‘pink ribbon’: Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we feature Catherine Akwong a resident at the Haven Hostel and a cancer warrior for 4 years. Her resilience is a motivation for other residents at the hostel who suffered the same breast cancer predicament. When you meet her for the first time it’s hard to tell that she is sick except for bald head from the continuous chemotherapy.
Catherine, 55 from Gulu Northern Uganda. She is a single mother of three children. Though she managed to see the oldest boys through school, the youngest girl is still undergoing her secondary education. With the financial resources from her sons and sourcing from our partners, she has managed to navigate through her treatment journey whilst staying with us.
“All the signs were there but I could not tell that it was breast cancer. Even when we went to Lacor Hospital where my surgery was done. It was not until I came to Mulago where a biopsy was done, that I was told I had stage three breast cancer.” She pensively tells me. This is a common practice in Uganda, people do not go for medical checkup or cancer screening not until something really goes wrong with their lives. Most times it is always too late.
Late detection and treatment cost Catherine one part of her breast (she underwent Mastectomy). When she came to the Hostel her wound was still fresh from the surgery in Lacor and we taught her how to clean and dress her wound to prevent further infection. She was put on five cycles of Chemotherapy which were draining financially, physically and emotionally. After a year the chemo had not done much. A re-surgery was done in March 2019. She is recuperating well-awaiting radiotherapy in Mulago.
We are glad to be part of her journey by providing Catherine a place to stay for free during the course of her treatment. We have liaised with Uganda Women’s cancer support organization (UWOCASO) to provide a prosthesis for the removed breast. She was also referred to Hospice Africa Makindye where she receives regular palliative care and treatment. Catherine requires rehabilitative nutrition to rebuild her immune system and this has been possible with donations from good willed individuals and our Parma garden at the hostel. Her appointments have always been on time because the hostel has offered timely transportation to the Uganda Cancer Institute for treatment.
Hopefully, the radiotherapy machine which is down will be fixed on time so that Catherine resumes her treatment in time. We have high hopes because she is strong-willed.
It’s also our humble prayer that every man and woman goes for that breast cancer screening NOW because early detection saves lives and that any Good willed person reaches out at the Haven hostel to help out people like Catherine with in-kind donations, facilitate transportation and daily needs and most importantly psychosocial support which they need in traumatic times like these.