Four children in tow, Mr. Colman Kiprugut Rotich makes his way to Kimbilio Hospice. It is mid-morning and the sun is trying to peer through the clouds hanging over the azure sky in Kipkaren, Eldoret County. This is a trek Mr. Rotich and his children make almost daily as they go to visit his wife and their mother who is a patient at the hospice.
She was diagnosed with abnormal growths in her nose and referred to Kenyatta National Hospital. The cost of the surgery required for the surgery to be done was 400,000 Kenya shillings, approximately 4,200 US dollars. That was beyond their means and they returned home to Eldoret. By God’s grace, they found out that they could get the surgery done at a fairer price at Mulago District Hospital in Uganda. The surgery removed the growths in her nose but unfortunately an x-ray also revealed a brain tumor and swelling in the neck and that the tumor had spread to her spine.
She underwent radiotherapy at Mulago hospital and was allowed to go back home. The illness stayed away for two years but after an unfortunate turn of events, three months after conceiving, she fell sick yet again. She began to develop pains around her waist and an x-ray showed that she had a dislocated joint on her back bone. Unable to afford conventional medicine, they turned to traditional herbalists. They were so desperate for a cure that they took herbal treatment from 14 different herbalists.
The story gets sadder. A few weeks after embarking on the herbal treatment, she became paralyzed from the waist down. This affected her so much that for seven months, she could not pass urine and had to have a catheter fixed at her local dispensary in Mosoriot area. She also had serious stomach pains and went for many weeks without passing stool as well as loss of appetite.
A neighbour took pity on them when he saw the toll her illness was having on the family. He told them about Kimbilio Hospice and asked them to consider visiting to seek help. By this time, Mr. Rotich’s wife was in such serious pain in her stomach and legs that she would spend her days wailing in anguish.
“We had gotten to the point where sleepless nights were the order of the day. I would sleep on my knees cuddling my wife and even in her pain, in the middle of the night she would find herself waking me up to turn so I wouldn’t go numb in my legs and hands,” says Mr. Rotich.
Their neighbour reached out to Mr. Daniel Morogo, a social worker at Kimbilio hospice, when it became apparent that they could not make it to the hospice on their own. Upon speaking to Mr. Rotich, Mr. Morogo the social worker asked them come to the hospice as a matter of urgency.
“I recommended that they come to the hospice as soon as possible once the husband described the wife’s pains and ills. I realized that she needed urgent hospice care and treatment,” says the social worker, Mr. Morogo.
Mrs. Rotich was admitted to the hospice on April 7th and after receiving treatment and care, the catheter was removed and she could pass urine. Soon so could she pass stool as well. Thankfully by the time she was admitted to the hospice, she had carried her pregnancy to full term. The unfortunate bit is that her cancer has metastasized so much.
Mr. Rotich supports his family through farming of maize on his land. His four children, 18-year old Alosius Kiptanui, Sholeen Kipchirchir aged 13, 9-year old Gertrude Chelagat and Ignatius Kipkalia aged 9 months have never had to go without food despite their mother’s illness and the first three are in school. That is a silver lining in an otherwise tragic story.
Mr. Rotich cites the following as some of the challenges he has had to endure since his wife became ill:-
- He has had to be both mother and father to their children
- He has become financially drained due to the cost of treating his wife’s illness
- He misses his wife’s company and feels there is a missing link
- There has been psychological torture for his family
- He feels that he has struggled for most of his life, now with his wife’s sickness and raising his siblings after they lost their parents while young and he had to step up and be the head of a family at a young age.
The one thing that gives him hope is the care his wife has received at the hospice. He is a firm believer that the work that hospices and palliative care units do is invaluable to all of society.
As the interview comes to an end, I see a man who has suffered through a lot raise his head slowly and while looking at me straight in the eyes, asks me, where does cancer come from to cause so much pain and anguish? I understand that the question is rhetorical and all I can do is to reach out to him and look up to the skies and urge him to remain steadfast in his belief in God.
By Mwende Maureen