Cancer does not define me - survivor narrates how he overcame against all odds

Francis Mpendamoyo, Cancer survivor

At 16, Deogracian Francis Mpendamoyo, second born in a family of four, was diagnosed with leukemia and has battled this kind of Cancer for over four years.

Life has dealt a big blow for him following the passing of his mother in 1999 and later on lost his father in 2003.

As if this were not enough, more devastating news came on 24th March 2014, when he was diagnosed with stage four Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital.

Stage four meant the cancer had already spread to other organs.

“In my case, the cancer spread to my lungs. It’s cancer, are words that I will never forget. I recall that moment clearly as the day when my oncologist told me about the news.

“A tidal wave of emotions hit me. Overwhelmed, I never expected to be diagnosed with Cancer, especially since I lived a healthy lifestyle and rarely had any health problems. It took me weeks before I could fully grasp what was going to happen to my body.

“Accepting the reality of what I had, gave me a clear vision of what I needed to do, which was to make sure to keep a positive attitude and strong mental state,” he  recounted

The road to recovery for Mpendamoyo was a struggle, the treatments began for six months at Queen Elizabeth hospital then he stopped because the pain was too much to bear.

He later went to Mwaiwathu private hospital where eight cycles of treatments began.

Cancer treatment: Chemotherapy drugs

Describing Chemotherapy as a heavy therapy for Cancer, Mpendamoyo is still grateful that he managed to go through the treatment.

 “Chemotherapy, and several Emergency Room visits due to severe migraines and vomiting, physically and mentally drained me. Gaining back all the strength I lost was another challenge, which I had to overcome.

“In this long and painful process, I learned that the undying support from prayers of people I did not personally know and the people most dear to me were all I needed to win the battle. On October 17, 2019, I was declared cancer free,” narrated Mpendamoyo.

Mpendamoyo: Cancer does not define me.

Despite being cleared off the disease, he still goes for check-ups every five years.

Although he experiences side effects like fatigue and others that may occur, he remains optimistic about the future.

 “Cancer does not define me. I have scars from treatment but they do not define me. I hope we can all talk more about cancer and life after cancer. It is definitely not always easy and there is a lot more that goes on after you have been cured of cancer. Chemotherapy saved my life but it is a heavy medicine for anybody”.

June is national Cancer survivor’s month. With the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, Cancer Survivors Quest is commemorating the month by sharing their stories.

According to World Health Organization, Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, accounting for an estimated 9.6 million deaths, or one in six deaths, in 2018.

Lung, prostate, colorectal, stomach and liver cancer are the most common types of cancer in men, while breast, colorectal, lung, cervical and thyroid cancer are the most common among women.