Cancer warrior, 13, puts up a brave fight amid Covid-19 pandemic

As millions of learners attend virtual lessons, thanks to coronavirus pandemic, one pupil is worried.

As Dennis Mwangi Wanjiku, 13, walks into Nakuru Hospice reception desk accompanied by his mother, one might think that the ever smiling boy is well.  One cannot tell that he is battling cancer.

“When I come to the clinic, I feel very bad, I want to go home and read,” says Mwangi.

“I sometimes ask God to heal me because I want to go back to class and read. I have attended the clinic and the smell of drugs and seeing suffering patients makes me feel so sad,” said Mwangi.

Even with a nagging life-threatening health condition, he believes he shall overcome.

“I shall one day heal. I would not like any child to undergo what I have gone through so far. Its total hell on earth,” said Mwangi who has gastric cancer.

Many side effects

“The cancer drugs have many side effects. I sometimes experience headache and vomit. My tongue becomes heavy and I can’t talk, I feel very weak,” said Mwangi.

The Class Seven pupil at Baharini Primary School in Nakuru town is a symbol of hope to a lot of children facing similar challenges.

He is however, worried about missing e-lessons and class assignments.

“When normal learning resumes next year, I want to study hard and pass my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams and join my dream school, Starehe Boys Centre,” he says who aspires to study medicine at the university.

Dennis with his mother Esther Wanjiku.

“I want to become a doctor and help other children like me. I know what my doctor has done to my illness so far and the only way I can give back to the society is to study hard and become like him.’

“I have gone through pain. I know what it means to have cancer at the age of 13. I want to study hard and become a doctor and specialise cancer treatment,” he says

He added: “You will never understand the pain and suffering until it happens to you.”

However, amid his pains, Mwangi is determined to soldier on.

Cancer vaccine

“The world will one day get a vaccine and I will overcome the cancer pains,” he says.

The boy emerged eighth in a class of 40 during Term One exams before schools were closed indefinitely due to coronavirus.

The story of this young warrior is an inspiration to many.

Perhaps, Mwangi has more strength and optimism that many adults lack. He bravely narrates his story amid smiles. In 2018 he underwent his first stomach surgery at Nakuru Level Five Hospital.

“In 2019 I was back at the hospital and doctors told mum that my intestines had been infected with cancer cells. I could not sleep. I cried the whole night,” said Mwangi.

“I started attending chemotherapy sessions from May last year up to October and it has not been an easy journey.”

“My mother has exhausted all the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) allocation and it means I may not be able to attend chemotherapy sessions which I attend after every 21 days,” says Mwangi.

He says a chemotherapy session costs Sh19,600.

“We live in slums of Bondeni and my mother washes clothes for which she is paid Sh200. Many people are now jobless due to coronavirus and her job of washing clothes is scarce,” said Mwangi.

“My mum has not paid house rent for two months. This worries me too,” says Mwangi.

He cannot undergo chemotherapy when his blood level is low.

Eat meat

“The doctor told my mum I should eat meat at least once a week to boost my blood level but she is unable to buy as she is jobless,” said Mwangi.

“I sometimes cry when I see mum borrow Sh50 from a neighbour to buy me two pieces of meat to boost my blood levels,” he said.

He says sometimes the pains get worse and he cannot play like other children due to his poor health.

“I love football but I can go outside to play with other boys. The doctor told me not to play,” he said.

He said he spends his free time reading the Bible.

“I read the Bible every day because I know one-day God will heal me,” he says.

His mother Esther Wanjiku is worried about her son’s illness. Ms Wanjiku has faced several financial crises in the last two years owing to the piling medical bills.

“I am the mother and father of my son. I separated with, my husband, when he was a toddler and I have struggled to bring him up and it’s not easy when you have no steady source of income,” she offered.

Even so, the mother is pushing on. Ms Wanjiku has given it her all to keep the young boy motivated.

“My son has undergone a lot of pain since he was diagnosed with cancer.”

She adds: “Cancer treatment and home-based care is not a walk in the park. It drains you financially, psychologically and physically. However, I thank God that my boy is not losing hope. He has put up a brave face amidst all these pains, he is the strongest warrior I know.”

“When he underwent major surgery and the results revealed that he had cancer, that was one of my saddest moments in my life. It was my worst nightmare,” she revealed.

Braving the nagging pain, Mwangi would get up every morning, take pain killers, and go to school, she said.

Months of chemotherapy

She said the aggressive months of chemotherapy that followed nearly broke her heart.

“At times things got tough and he gets terrible headaches and vomits, but he is battling against all odds to find joy in the smallest of things,” she added.

Their major pillar of support has been Elizabeth Ndung’u of Hospice, who has extended emotional and financial support to the family.

Ms Ndung’u has been helping cancer survivors in Nakuru County.

“I have exhausted my NHIF allocation. I have approached many for help with little success but when things become thick and we come to Hospice and meet Elizabeth, she does not necessarily give us instant financial help, but her empathy gives us hope,” she told the Nation.

However, she said she would appreciate any help from well-wishers to ensure her son get the best medication.

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