x Health Men's Health Children's Health Nutrition and Wellness Reproductive Health Health & Science Digital News Videos Opinions Cartoons Education E-Paper Lifestyle & Entertainment Nairobian Entertainment Eve Woman Travelog TV Stations KTN Home KTN News BTV KTN Farmers TV Radio Stations Radio Maisha Spice FM Vybez Radio Enterprise BULK SMS E-Learning Digger Classified The Standard Group Corporate Contact Us Rate Card Vacancies DCX O.M Portal Corporate Email RMS
Login ×
BTV
VAS
DCX
RMS

I beat stage 4 cancer

Health & Science - By Jacqueline Mahugu | August 5th 2018 at 10:46:02 GMT +0300
Karen Bugingo, a genocide and cancer survivor. [Photo: Standard]

At 19, Karen Bugingo was diagnosed with Stage 4 Burkitt lymphoma, the fastest growing human tumour. At 25, she is cancer free. She speaks to JACQUELINE MAHUGU about it.

On April 8, 1994, in a quaint house in Kigali Rwanda, a man and his wife were going about their usual business, oblivious of the danger that lay moments away. If they had known of the impending doom, they would probably have drawn out every minute together, held on to each other a little longer.

Because a few hours later, a group of killers would barge into the home and kill them, leaving their children orphaned, a one year-old-girl and a two- year-old boy. They were the apple of their eyes, and in their dying moments, they must have been relieved that they had left the children the previous night at their babysitter’s.

Today, the one-year-old girl is little grown. She is a beautiful lithe girl whose name Bugingo means ‘life’ in Kinyarwanda. And the fierce light that shines in her eyes and her graceful manner exemplifies the name. Being so young when she lost her parents, and raised by her grandmother, she has little recollection of them.

“I am told that my parents were hardworking people. They ran a business together. I wish I had met them,” she says wistfully.

And while the Rwanda genocide might have shaped her life, it is her battle with cancer that has defined it. And when I meet her for the interview, she explains that she is in Nairobi for the launch of her book My Name Is Life. The book is about her battle with cancer.

When she turned 19, she began experiencing excruciating pain in her hip and suddenly started wasting away.

“For a full year, I survived on pain medication. The doctors had no idea why I was losing weight or experiencing aches.”

When it all became unbearable, they decided to go to India to seek help.

“I travelled to India in 2012 and after some tests, the doctor broke the news that I had Stage 4 lymphoma,” she says.

The news devastated her.

“I was now faced with a struggle that, unlike the after-effects of genocide, is a struggle unfamiliar to many Rwandese. It was a widespread notion that cancer was something no one survived. When I was battling cancer I did not know any person who had survived it. Everything that was happening to me, I learnt about it on Google,” she says.

This, is what prompted her to write the book, to create cancer awareness, and also to be a source of hope to other people struggling with it and other issues.

“I went to a hospital in Bangalore, India where I underwent chemotherapy for a month. I then went to Kigali for the remaining five months,” she says. “It was draining. I developed insomnia in the first stages of the treatment and later on started losing my hair. It was slow and painful but luckily I wasn’t in any pain, just emotionally drained.”

However, despite being diagnosed with severe lymphoma, she decided to keep her head up, even if sometimes she felt like the world had not stopped moving just because she was sick.

“By the time I finished treatment, my peers had already finished university, so facing the fact that life had left me behind was tough for me,” she says.

Eventually, the prognosis moved from grim, to hopeful. “I realised that I was going to get through it when I started feeling better, eating and walking. I had been in a wheelchair because the cancer had spread to my hip, but all that started getting better. I was declared cancer-free in July 2013.”

She was blogging about her path to recovery when her uncle suggested that she publishes a book about it.

“I hope that anyone struggling with cancer will read the book and know that they can get through it. And that amidst the storm, they should look for the rainbows.”

QUICK FACTS

Burkitt Lymphoma is rare outside Africa

It mostly affects children who have malaria

This cancer is also very common among people living with HIV

The African variety often begins as a tumour in the jaw or other facial bones before spreading

Intensive chemotherapy is a common treatment option


beat cancer stage 4

Top Stories

Hospital swamped as patient numbers swell
Health & Science - By Mercy Kahenda


139 test Covid-19 positive as cases near 100,000
Health & Science - By Betty Njeru


NMS recruits 600 nurses as it prepares to open four hospitals
Health & Science - By Josephat Thiong'o


Africa's COVID-19 case fatality rate surpasses global level
Health & Science - By Reuters


A virus that reverses deafness
Health & Science - By Killiad Sinide


Covid-19 cases to shoot up in March
Health & Science - By Mercy Kahenda


Concern over soaring cases of liver failure and liver cancer among Kenyans due to Hepatitis
Health & Science - By Ally Jamah


Government now approves Janssen’s Prostate Cancer drug
Health & Science - By Mireri Junior


Concern over soaring cases of liver failure and liver cancer among Kenyans due to Hepatitis
Health & Science - By Ally Jamah


Why matumbo is good for fertility, pregnancy
Health & Science - By Dr Othieno Joseph


Latest Stories

Hospital swamped as patient numbers swell
Health & Science - By Mercy Kahenda


Covid-19 cases to shoot up in March
Health & Science - By Mercy Kahenda


NMS recruits 600 nurses as it prepares to open four hospitals
Health & Science - By Josephat Thiong'o


139 test Covid-19 positive as cases near 100,000
Health & Science - By Betty Njeru


Covid-19: Three dead as 186 test positive
Health & Science - By Judah Ben-Hur


Africa's COVID-19 case fatality rate surpasses global level
Health & Science - By Reuters


We'll go on with strike, healthcare workers say
Health & Science - By Anyango Otieno and Kirsten Kanja


COVID-19 shots to cost between Sh300 and Sh1100 under African Union vaccine plan
Health & Science - By Reuters


Covid-19: Kenya records 136 new cases as 176 recover
Health & Science - By Judah Ben-Hur


Muslim Council calls on governors to heal health crisis
Health & Science - By Judah Ben-Hur


//

Stay Ahead!

Access premium content only available
to our subscribers.

Or Login With Your Standard Account
Support independent journalism
×
Create An Account
Support independent journalism
I have an account Log in
Reset Password
Support independent journalism
Log in