Upon diagnosis, finding treatment immediately and coping with the disease is key. The mantra, if you want to run fast, you run alone, but if you want to run for a long time, you run as a group is true and especially when it comes to fighting breast cancer. Alice Njoki, a manager at Jumbo Comm Limited and a breast cancer survivor knows this all too well. In June 2011 and at the age of 37, she was diagnosed with stage-two breast cancer.
Although she had been living with a painless tumour on her breast since 2009, she didn’t suspect that it was cancerous. She says encouragement from a friend who urged her to go for a breast screen saved what would have been late breast cancer detection.
“At the hospital, I was cautious why the doctor was doing so many tests on me but I didn’t think the tumour would be cancerous as it later turned out to be. I remember being so afraid and even thought I was going to die in a few weeks time,” she says laughing at the thought.
She began treatment immediately after diagnosis and soon learnt that the financial burden of the chemotherapy and radiation sessions would be too much to bear. Luckily, through the help of her family, friends and well-wishers she was able to raise funds for her treatment. It was while going through treatment that Alice met many other breast cancer patients. They would take down each other’s contacts and call one another for some encouragement.
“It became obvious that there was power in knowing someone who is or had walked in your shoes,” Alice explains, adding that the chemotherapy and radiation sessions are often a draining period that requires one to have a support system to hold you down.
After going through treatment successfully, Alice wanted to help other cancer victims. She began mobilizing other breast cancer survivors to form a support system and today, she and a group of ten breast cancer survivors raging between ages 26 to 50 have formed a support group – Kenya Victors Breast Cancer Awareness Group.
Together they have recorded a video on their experience with breast cancer and branded calendars that they share in churches and women gatherings to enlighten people about the disease. They also visit other breast cancer patients in hospital going through treatment to give them hope.
“It is surprising to know that although most of us think there is so much information on breast cancer available, many people still don’t know much about it, as is evident from the questions we get when we go to create awareness of the disease,” she says adding that the group does their best to inform the public. The group has a facebook page under the name Kenya Victors Breast Cancer Awareness Group, which they can be contacted from.
Alice says she wishes she knew early the importance of self-examining one’s breast and even going for general checkups. “Women should take time to regularly observe their breasts, that way if you notice any changes you can seek treatment early and save your life,” she says emphatically. Alice remains indebted to her family, friends and her boss, Esther Muchemi, Chief Executive Officer, Samchi Telkom, for their unwavering support throughout her journey as a breast cancer survivor.
With proper intervention approach, we all can help turn the cancer tide. As the first step in winning the cancer scourge, this month ensure you get a breast examination by a trained medical professional.