Ex-soldier’s fearless face against prostate cancer

By Graham Kajilwa | Thursday, Aug 30th 2018 at 00:00
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Martin Kimanthi at the Texas Cancer Centre,Nairobi. [Photo: Elvis Ogina/Standard]

If you ask 76-year-old Martin Kimanthi what he loves most, he is quick to give a precise list: his family, God and cancer.

Mr Kimanthi, who served in the Kenya Defence Forces for 35 years, fell in love with the disease recently, probably as a tactic for survival when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“Ooh, I have seen worse. What I have gone through cannot be compared to this,” he says, his body slouched in bed Number Two at the Texas Cancer Centre in Nairobi.

The two teeth missing from his lower jaw are part of the evidence that he has gone through rough times. But he is reluctant to talk about his days as a soldier.

About a week ago, after the tests came back positive, Kimanthi said he “loved the disease” and did not ask “why me?”.

When the doctors broke the news to him, he called his family to inform them about the development.

“I told them I am not dying anytime soon. Of course all of us will die one day but cancer is not a death sentence. It is an illness like any other. If you get knocked down by a vehicle and die, will you blame it on cancer?” he asked.

For 72 years, Kimanthi lived a healthy life. His stint in the army had assured him of the best health care with regular checkups.

But in 2013, 14 years after he retired, he started feeling numbness in his right foot.  He dismissed it as a sign of old age.

“I have been well all my life, just malaria and a few headaches, but nothing serious,” he says.

But the numbness spread to the whole leg and he started having difficulties urinating. Sometimes he would feel as if his bladder was full, but nothing would come out when he visited the bathroom.

“I remember one day I could not sleep and I told my wife to get me to a hospital. They inserted a catheter and two litres of urine was drained from my bladder,” he recalls.

However, it now appears Kimanthi ignored the numbness for too long and it has left him with serious back pains. He now has to use a wheel chair.

It took several trips from his Kitui home and diagnostic tests ranging from X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging and biopsies to finally diagnose the prostate cancer.

“I am fine, maybe just old and weary. But what gives me confidence is that my National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) cover is handling my treatment. My family is not burdened,” he said. “Cancer is not a bad disease; people just fear the name.”

According to Erick Kanjama of Texas Cancer Centre, the most common risk factor for cancer of the prostate is age, though there are exceptional cases where people get it before the age of 50.

“The challenge is by the time symptoms show, the cancer usually has already spread,” he said.

The symptoms of the disease include back pain, trouble passing urine, and swollen legs (as the cancer might affect the kidneys).

Apart from prostate, cancer of the oesophagus is also common among men


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