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Cancer has not dulled teacher’s keen spirit

Health & Science - By Anne Atieno | January 7th 2021 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Caroline Oloo helps her husband, Vincent, to dress a wound on his right leg, at home in Odier Aora village in Awendo, Migori County. [Anne Atieno, Standard]

Vincent Oloo groans as he strains to sit upright on a three-seat chair but gives up when the pain in his right foot becomes too much to bear.

What started as a swelling last year has now developed into a wound that needs to be dressed after every few hours, according to his wife, Caroline.

“It has a lot of discharge and requires constant cleaning. Apart from ensuring that the growth is dressed four times a night, we have to leave the windows open for air to circulate or he may throw up,” she said.

When Oloo went to hospital, he was diagnosed with lymphedema. He was unable to access proper treatment due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and says he was turned away by doctors who said he has an underlying health condition.

The 45-year-old CRE teacher knows what they are talking about, cancer, which cost him his left leg.

Oloo recalls when he first started feeling an itch on his left foot, and the boil that developed on his toe in 2004.

He was treated at a private hospital in Migori where the boil was lanced and drained. A skin sample was taken for further tests but he never got the results.

In August 2010, a similar boil appeared on his left foot and quickly enlarged. The father of five visited Kisumu County District Hospital where he was examined and had a skin biopsy test done.

He was diagnosed with an ‘incompletely excised atypical capillary haemangioma’, underwent chemotherapy for eight months at Kisii District Referral Hospital and the swelling disappeared.

The following year, the growth recurred and he was referred to Kenyatta National Hospital where he was diagnosed with an ‘early lesion of Kaposi sarcoma’, which is a type of cancer.

Chemotherapy

Oloo was referred to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH) in 2012 for three cycles of chemotherapy.

“Getting treatment at Kenyatta National Hospital was quite expensive. At JOOTRH, I could get the injections at a lower cost. The hospital was also near my brother’s home so I could easily access it. I completed the cycles well,” he said.

In 2013, the growth returned and Oloo was subjected to more chemotherapy and other treatment at Ampath Clinic until March 21, 2017.

But two months later, his left leg was amputated at a different hospital to prevent the cancerous cells from spreading to other parts of his body.

After the surgery, Oloo was relieved and thought his health troubles were over.

This was until he was diagnosed with lymphedema, which, according to Mayo Clinic, is caused by the removal of or damage to lymph nodes as part of cancer treatment.

The teacher, who used crutches to help him walk from his home in Odier Aora village in Awendo to school three kilometres away, is now immobilised and relies on family members who carry him.

He said that while friends and relatives had deserted him over fears that he would infect them, his family bond remained strong.

Caroline told The Standard that she would never think of abandoning Oloo.

“I cannot leave him now owing to the fact that we have walked a long journey together.

When we got married, he was in good health and was walking. I would not want to leave him now that he cannot move.”

But the disease has cost the family financially. Caroline said that since her husband is out of work, putting food on the table and educating their children has become an uphill task.

Their first son is at home due to lack of school fees while his four other siblings lack books and other essential items.

Oloo’s wish is to have a wheelchair that will enable him to move around.

He said a nearby school is willing to hire him and give him the chance to support his family.

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