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The New Times – Rwanda
There is a lot of stigma surrounding cancer patients both during the treatment process and survivorship, a situation that needs more sensitisation among people, according to experts and survivors.
The survivors and experts were speaking on Friday at the Kigali innovation village in an event organised by Rwanda Children’s Cancer Relief, a non-profit organization focusing on raising awareness of childhood cancers.
In 2018, according to world health organisation, Rwanda had 10,704 new cases of cancer, with cervical, breast, and colorectal cancers being the most rampant.
Although statistics about cancer stigma are not available, Dr. FideleRubagumya, a Clinical Oncologist at the Rwanda Military Hospital, said many people are ignorant about cancers, and this contributes to stigmatization of patients.
Rubagumya said he has encountered patients that were facing stigma during his practice as a doctor. Due to ignorance about cancer, he saw some lose partners; while others were stigmatized by relatives, among other things.
He shared a story of a young woman, a cancer patient, who refused to have surgery on her breast because she feared that her husband would leave her.
“I explained to her that we were going to give her chemotherapy, after which we would carry out a surgery to remove the tumour. She took the chemo, but refused the surgery because she feared that her husband would go,” he said.
“Because the chemo had made the tumour shrink, she thought she was cured. She went home. After four months, she came back with a huge mass. By this time, I heard that the husband had already left her,” he added.
According to Rubagumya, cancer patients go through such stigma. In some cases, some get isolated due to the ignorant belief that the disease is contagious.
Yet, he said that stigma can even spread more during survivorship, where for instance, spouses separate because one of them discovers that another is a cancer survivor.
Karen Bugingo, a cancer survivor, and author of “My name is Life” said that many people don’t understand survivorship, and they tend to ask a number of questions concerning their normality,
“Some people ask me, ‘Are you really cancer free?’” she said.
“People don’t understand when I tell them that I don’t take any medicine now, I don’t need any pill before going to bed,” she said.
Bugingo was diagnosed with stage four lymphoma in 2012. Lymphoma is a cancer that begins in infection-fighting cells of the immune system, called lymphocytes. These cells are in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and other parts of the body.
Despite being at stage four (the last stage of cancer) she was able to heal and seven years later, she is sensitizing people about cancer.
She said that the best way to recover from cancer is having hope that you will be well. For her, you need to be mentally strong, and not lose hope as you fight for your life,
“People talk many things about cancer. They say its incurable, and if you have it you are going to die. However, I am a living testimony that someone can be free from cancer. I am a survivor, and if survivors are there, the cure is there” she said.
Bugingo added that believing in God was very important during and after her sickness. She said it helped her to keep hope during the sickness, and she says she developed a good relationship with God even after recovering.
DeodatusRubayita, one of the youth who attended the event admitted to knowing little about how to behave around a friend or a family member suffering from cancer.
Bugingo said the best way to act when you are around a cancer patient is not to treat them as a fragile people, but rather as just normal, as if nothing has changed,
“They also need to have that sense of normality,” she said.
The Sunday Mail - Zimbabwe
By: Lovemore Ranga Mataire
Sometime in December 2016, I was among the journalists attending the Zanu-PF Annual National People’s Conference in Masvingo, which many billed as the ultimate harbinger of then-President Robert Mugabe’s eventual departure.
What seemed to have been the drawcard for most journalists was news that then-South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was to deliver a solidarity message to the conference on behalf of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
Never before, at least as long as I remember, had such a high-profile individual from a fraternal political party been sent to a Zanu-PF indaba to address delegates.
Already, at the time, Ramaphosa was being touted as a possible successor to then-President Jacob Zuma, who, at the time, was mired in controversies which had undermined his standing.
My anticipation of Ramaphosa’s address was soon dampened by reports of a possible “no-show”.
It was reported that the ANC representative had “chickened out” for fear of heightening factional fights that were latently playing out in the revolutionary Zanu-PF party.
It later turned out the “no-show” buzz was untrue as the South African Deputy President had already arrived in Masvingo and was on his way to the conference venue.
Inside the venue, Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, then co-Vice President, was chairing a session.
But, just a few minutes before noon, delegates’ attention was jerked to the main entrance where there was a sudden flurry of security details.
Lo and behold, a smiling giant clad in a black suit sauntered into the auditorium amid deafening ululations from delegates.
In a measured, statesmanlike gait, Ramaphosa stepped towards the high-table, hugged and shook hands with Mugabe, and warmly greeted the then-First Lady Grace.
He, however, seemed to have reserved the longest embrace and broadest smile for Cde Mnangagwa.
It was Cde Mnangagwa who, as chair of the session, was to introduce the ANC deputy chief to the delegates and invite him to the podium to deliver his solidarity message.
Ramaphosa stood up, bowed his head in respect in the direction of President Mugabe and greeted the delegates in Shona and Ndebele before delivering a message.
His speech, and his mere presence there, put one “dangerous” idea into the minds of the audience: it was possible, and not a sin, to have leadership renewal.
The former firebrand trade unionist, famed for being an astute negotiator in the run-up to South Africa’s freedom, did not disappoint.
In fact, he had the easiest of tasks as he simply reiterated and reinforced Mugabe’s earlier opening remarks to the conference about the scourge of corruption and factionalism.
Ramaphosa told the delegates: “As your visitors, we listened closely when the President was speaking about unity and it was like he was addressing an ANC congress.
When you (President Mugabe) spoke of corruption, it was like you were speaking to us.
When you spoke of factionalism, it was also like you were addressing the ANC. As we leave this conference, we are a better people.”
Such frankness left a section of the audience and some at the high-table stone-faced.
But, to most, this was just the tonic Zanu-PF needed.
The now-late Mai Shuvai Mahofa,stood and with her inimitable voice led the Masvingo delegates into a song: “Kumagumo Kune Nyaya.”
In no time, she was joined on the dance floor by the lanky former Masvingo Governor Cde Josiah Hungwe.
Soon, many more in the auditorium joined in song. At the top table, then co-vice President Phelekezela Mphoko remained emotionless.
Reading the mood in that auditorium, it did not need a genius to sense the impact Ramaphosa made on delegates.
The speech had given them the courage to rethink their old tradition of speaking into their armpits and sweeping things under the table.