Cancer patients urge government to increase treatment support

By Duduzile Ruzive

Ntobeko Sibiya (21), a young mother of one, who lives in Bulawayo metropolitan province says in December 2019, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, a condition that she believed would end her life prematurely, considering the inadequate treatment and care from public hospitals.

Women should not wait long to get tested. Early detection is important to contain the disease from spreading to other parts of the body

Ntobeko says the cervical cancer came at the worst time, in 2019 when the world was being rapidly engulfed by the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), a situation that diverted billions of dollars meant for other critical expenditures. Ntobeko says for patients in Zimbabwe, the situation was compounded by the fact that the few doctors at government hospitals were overwhelmed and could not attend to other critical conditions.

“In November 2020, I started to experience ‘spotting’, that is persistent vaginal bleeding outside a woman’s period, a condition that gave me sleepless nights. I consulted some of my family members and I was advised to go for cancer screening. I had read a lot about cervical cancer and I knew the importance of early diagnosis. After a series of tests, I was told that I had cervical cancer,” says Ntobeko.

Ntobeko, says although COVID-19 was ravaging the country, she managed to get treatment in 2020. She says the doctors told her that she was lucky the cancer had been detected early and that they would be able to contain the situation. She adds that despites assurances from doctors, she was worried to death because she had seen and read about how difficult and expensive it was to treat cancer.

“My family tried to raise funds for the treatment. The cost was US$3000 to US$5000. At that time, doctors in the public hospitals were on strike. I however managed to get booked at Mpilo and am grateful for the help I got from the staff during those trying days of my life,” says Ntobeko.

I had an operation in June 2020 and another one in July 2020. Both operations were successful and doctors told me that they had managed to remove the growth in my cervix. I was supposed to do radiotherapy soon after but due to COVID-19, I had to wait for some time. Knowing that the cancer could easily spread and kill me was the worst thought to haunt me during that time,” says Ntobeko.

Ntobeko says after 17 sessions the machine at Mpilo Central Hospital broke down and she had to wait again as her treatment required that she does 30 sessions. She says

“The journey was painful. I was scared I would die and leave my son. I also questioned God why he allowed this dreadful disease to attack me. It was difficult to accept. My family was in denial. They even suggested that we pray and cast the demon that was causing cancer or some witchcraft, but I realized I needed medical attention if I needed to survive,” says Ntobeko.

Ntobeko says from her own experience, she has realised the importance of educating women and girls about the importance of early detection.

“I would like to encourage other women to seriously consider going for cancer screening, I speak about this daily. Women should not wait long to get tested. Early detection is important to contain the disease from spreading to other parts of the body,” says Ntobeko.

Creative Centre for Communication and Development, Zimbabwe

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