Christmas is just around the corner and I am reminded of this song ‘Christmas Shoes’ by Newsong. It talks about a poor little boy who wants to buy shoes for his mother because he’d want to see his bedridden sick mama look beautiful when she finally gets to meet Jesus on the Christmas Eve. It is quite moving for such a little boy to think about someone else, on a Christmas day and have a conviction that Christmas is more than just a day to be clad in expensive clothes and eat the best food ; it’s more of love, care and appreciating the less privileged in the society.
Ignorance is the biggest undoing that has hit our society in whichever aspect of life. It is unfortunate that the one thing that matters the most, health, is the very one that people, especially in the rural areas, have the least knowledge about. Maua Methodist Hospital and Webuye Hospice took the initiative to hold public trainings on palliative care and the reception was encouraging according to Stephen Gitonga, who is based at Maua Methodist Hospital. They also undertook screenings and paid home visits to 3 patients one with a tongue cancer and one with prostrate cancer.
This message should reach out to the biggest audience possible and Embu Mbeere Hospice took this initiative by involving the local radio station, Wimwaro FM. They took the opportunity to not only advertise their services but also to sensitize people on why palliative care should be one of the priorities in the society because the challenges associated with terminal illnesses keep growing by day. They also did home visits, “We visited two families in very remote areas to visit patients one of whom has prostate cancer. In the other family, we were really saddened by the situation in the family. We found two children with skin cancer and we were told that two others have already passed on due to the same problem. Well-wishers have been helping the family and one of them is actually planning to build a permanent house for the family because they are weak financially,”says Peninah Njagi from the Hospice. They also held an open forum at Embu Level Five Hospital to create awareness on palliative care and how to prevent some of these terminal diseases such as early screening.
The celebration couldn’t come to a better conclusion at the Nyayo National Stadium on the 10th-11thOctober. The dancing, the singing and the relay for a straight 24 hours is exactly what defines what fun is. “I have been living with cancer for the past 15 years and I must say this has been the most fun part of my life ever since”, says Miriam, a breast cancer survivor. “I came here with my children and I am so grateful that they have stood by me all along and encouraged me that my condition was not going to rob them of me”. She adds that she has faith that she still has a long life ahead of her and would encourage other patients to be strong even when they feel broken. Miriam’s testimony is just one among the many who gave their stories without shame and willingly for they feel they too have a role in helping someone in one way or another.
These are some of the activities that were undertaken during the palliative week and it is clear that the bottom-line of this celebration is not just a remembrance of those who have lost the battle to different terminal illnesses but it is also a chance to come through for someone who needs our help to fight by them and for them in whatever way we can. The notion that terminal illnesses are a death sentence should no longer exist in our society and it is up to you and I to take this message to the patients, medical practitioners and the community as a whole. It is through such acts that hope is kept alive, faith stronger and lives are lengthened.