Ann Wanjiru Kamau is an advocate of the High Court in Kenya. She is also a mother of two, a set of twins. Barely seven months after she was blessed with her "Super Champions" as she calls them, Ann was diagnosed with an aggressive and rare type of Stage 4 Cancer of the breast.
It all started in 2011 when she was absorbed into a cancer sensitization campaign that was spearheaded by the Judiciary. And as they say, charity begins at home. She had to be screened for breast cancer given that it is highly prevalent in women. To her surprise, she tested positive for Stage 4 Breast Cancer. "I couldn't believe it. I had no lumps in either of my breasts, and none of my family members had any type of cancer. And here I am, suffering from something I wasn't aware of," Ann says.
Despite being advised to seek treatment immediately, Ann went on with her duties. "I was not sick, I kept reassuring myself so. Nobody knew about it, not even my husband," She adds. But three months later, the frequent thoughts of the initial report took a toll on her mental health. Ann started losing interest in things that she previously enjoyed. "I lost 20 kilograms in two and a half months and became sickly. My marriage was affected too," She says while trying to hide the tears in her eyes.
Ann's Fears are Confirmed
She had no other choice but to open up to her husband. Within no time, they booked an appointment with Dr. Narayaan Vijatakumar, the resident Oncologist at Mediheal Group of Hospitals in Nairobi. After a series of tests, it was confirmed that she indeed had Stage 4 Breast Cancer. "The physician told us that the cancer cells had spread so much, and the only little help he would offer was to place her on chemotherapy and drugs to prolong her life," Edgar, Ann's husband says. "I had less than three years to live," Ann adds.
Ann was immediately referred for chemo sessions, and during the first month, she had to be admitted to the hospital. Her two champions, who were 10 months by then, had to stay under the care of her sister. "We started feeling her absence. It's like we were preparing for the worst," Edgar says. By this time, Edgar had already stopped working at his auto garage to concentrate on her ailing wife.
After months of chemos and tons of drugs, her condition deteriorated. The cancer cells were spreading so fast to other parts including her right breast. To mitigate this, Dr. Narayaan Vijatakumar resorted to carrying out amputation of the left breast, which by now was severely infected. The operation was done on the 22nd night of February 2012. Ann underwent at least 25 chemo sessions before and after the surgery.
Ann is Placed on Clinical Trial
In a sudden twist of events, Edgar and her wife got wind of the availability of a drug that could be of great help to her. The nurse who sought anonymity said that she found it ideal to convince her seniors to invoke the clinical trial on Ann after learning of her infant kids. "Having been raised in foster care, I yearned to have my biological parents like most of my friends. It's a huge burden growing up without a mom. I didn't want the twins to grow like me," the nurse said. "I wasn't sure that the clinical trial would be a success. All we wanted was to try to save a life. That's our mission as medics," she adds.
Ann received her first trial infusion in late March 2012. She was scheduled for 8 infusions. Luckily, between the first and third infusions, the cancerous cells had greatly reduced by a third. "This was great news for us. It was just incredible. We weren't even halfway done with the trials. It was just incredible," Edgar says. Ann stayed in the hospital for the next 5 months, and by the eighth infusion, she had greatly improved and ready for discharge. She was finally declared cancer-free in August 2012.
Ann is declared Cancer-free
"I couldn't imagine my kids growing up without me. Who would look after them better than I did?" Ann says amid sobs. "My husband has been more of a father to me. He sacrificed so much to have me here. I couldn't make it without him," she adds. The two years were probably the hardest for this family, but their decision to give the trial a chance turned out to be life-saving. Dr. Narayaan Vijatakumar says the miracle recovery was simply divine. "It's not every day that you get to see stage 4 cancer patients making it out of the wards alive," the doctor says.
"You can heal from the diagnosis you have. All it takes is a helping hand. I can't thank the medical team and my family enough for being my solace. The support they gave was just phenomenal. They gave me another chance to raise my kids and live my dream," Ann says as she embraces her twins who are now 10 years old.