By Lorraine Anyango and Okoth Felix.
For Six’s months she not only dealt with deep excruciating pain that had become her norm, she also bore the emotional pain of rejection as people around her took off from her due to a persistent foul smell emanating from her.
However as the new year began, 25 year old Nancy Awour Okeyo can now breathe a sigh of relief after two doctors from JOOTRH removed an aggressive breast cancer tumor that has been squeezing life from her.
Though JOOTRH has had several breast cancer tumors removal surgeries, Awour’s case was unique due to the advancement of the tumor, its aggressive nature rendered Awour in bad shape and confined her to her bed.
This pain ended in two hours palliative modified mastectomy with axillary node dissection, during which there was removal of major and minor pectoralis while avoiding tumor free margins.
The procedure was performed by Dr Nyamohanga Marwa a consultant surgeon at JOOTRH and who is also a lecturer at Maseno University School of medicine aided by Dr Corazon Deya, senior register of the College of Surgeons for East Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA) at JOOTRH.
“Awour’s condition was extremely poor, she was in pain and bleeding from the infected wound, I was on leave when Dr Deya asked me to cut it short and get back to work so that I could do the operation.” Dr Marwa says.
“We were prepared, the anesthetic team was ready and well supported, and laboratory had availed all the blood that we had requested and the theater team led by Natala provided all the support, for us it was easy, tough and go.” He adds.
Dr Marwa said that they were worried about the bleeding that usually characterizes those kind of surgeries, but God was on their side.
“To date no one knows the exact cause of breast cancer (Phylloides) tumors, however genetic abnormalities such as lifraumeni syndrome, P53 mutations are involved.” Dr Marwa added.
Phylloides are common, JOOTRH receives about three to four cases in a month and currently the only effective treatment is surgery while advance cases would require radiotherapy and chemotherapy which is less effective though.
Smiling, days after the successful operation, Awour says that the foul smell caused her to vomit, and she could no longer eat as she couldn’t run away from herself.
“The cancer tumor was infected and it discharged a foul smell, it was so sad as people avoided me, yet I needed their help so bad , my quality of life become very poor .” She said.
Narrating her six months nightmare in 40 minutes, Nancy an omena vendor from Homabay County said she woke up to pain around her right breast and some parts of her shoulder, a pain that would not allow her to neither stretch her right hand nor lift a heavy load.
Upon doing a breast self-exam she found a lump under her breast that felt smooth to the touch, this was a strange feeling and it scared her for a moment, she went ahead and opened up to her mother who advised her to start seeking medication immediately.
She went to Agoro hospital, where she was made to undergo a mammogram which uses x-ray to take pictures, this bore no fruit as the result showed that she was okay despite the pain she was going through.A medical officer in the hospital would then advise them to visit Gendia hospital which is located in Kindubay.
In Gendia an urgent surgery was undertaken. The surgeon performed lumpectomy a surgical process that is aimed at removing the tumour along with at least one centimeter of tissue around it and after few days she was discharged from the hospital and advised to feed on vegetables and fruits.
While at home she became extremely weak and could do nothing on her own, the pain persisted and she became restless, one morning when she wanted to shower the tumour broke and she bled profusely with fluids oozing out a situation that worried her so much and for a minute she thought she would die, after sometime the bleeding stopped leaving her with a foul smell, this made people avoid her and not even friends or neighbors wanted to associate with her anymore.
As days went by her condition worsened, tears could not stop flowing down her cheeks, making her miserable something that saw her brother get hurt, her brother went back to Gendia and narrated the misery she was going through and the doctor referred him to Kisii Referral hospital for further medical checkup.
At Kisii Referral hospital a biopsy was conducted and after three weeks they went back for the results, they would later be referred to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital. The following day they boarded a passenger’s service vehicle and the journey to Kisumu began.
On their way they experienced rejection from different people due to the foul smell that was coming directly from their direction, some passengers even threatened to highlight from the vehicle if they were not going to be ejected out, but fortunately the driver was a man with a good heart and chose to fight in their favor.
At JOOTRH, a biopsy result were interpreted and she was diagnosed with phylloide tumor a rare tumor of the breast, she would later be admitted to ward one and her wound dressed making the foul smell to disappear.
Awour spent few days in the ward as it was a festive season and the surgeons had break for a holiday. Then few days’ later surgery was successfully performed on her and she is yet to undergo a final procedure that involves grafting of the wound.
“When I woke up, I kept repeating, it’s not there, I touched my right-hand side and the swelling was not there, the smell also was not there, now I can eat, give me Ugali and smoked dried fish now I can eat, she said while laughing and bursting with joy.”
Awour couldn’t express her joy enough as she advised women to normalize going for medical checkups whenever they experience growth or sudden changes that appears to be strange in their body, for it easy to be helped when a growth is in its early stages than when it has grown and spread to other parts of the body.
“Thank you so much JOOTRH for giving back my life.” She said.