Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
MS LUCIA Ndlovu (47) of Jambezi outside Victoria Falls could be staring death in the face if she doesn’t get money for six injections prescribed by doctors to treat cervical cancer.
Ms Ndlovu is a single mother of six who used to work as a boiler maker at Hwange Colliery Company before being diagnosed with cervical cancer last year.
She has been bedridden and doctors prescribed six injections before she can go for chemotherapy.
Each injection costs about US$180.
Ms Ndlovu can hardly speak or do anything by herself and her paternal aunt, Mrs Estele Neshavi has been nursing her at home and accompanying her on her numerous hospital visits in Hwange and Mpilo Central Hospital.
Sadly, she does not have money for the medication and her case resembles those of several other women who face similar predicaments and their condition is deteriorating by each day as they struggle to raise the required money for the six injections and other immunity boosting medicines.
Some struggle to get transport to go back to their respective places and end up staying at Isagogwana Ward, a cancer patients’ ward at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo as they wait for their next appointment.
A news crew spoke to Ms Ndlovu’s aunt Mrs Neshavi and other women with similar conditions as they appealed for financial help to be able to deal with their conditions which are at various stages of development, some of them at stage four.
“She has been bedridden and we carry her around as she can’t move. We feed and also bathe her as she is very weak. It started last year and doctors said it’s still within the cervix and hasn’t spread outside or to other body parts.
“She needs between six and eight injections before chemotherapy can be done. So far she got one and we are back home trying to raise money for the second injection. We are appealing to anyone who can help us to save her life,” said Mrs Neshavi.
She said the family is struggling financially and her husband also needs about US$750 for an operation after developing a prostate condition which makes it difficult to pass urine and is now using a tube.
She is nursing two patients at home.
According to health experts, cervical cancer is a malignant tumour of the cervix or lower part of the womb.
Cervical cancer can be gotten through long-lasting human papilloma virus (HPV) infection as the virus is passed from person to person during sex, air pollution, ultra violet radiation, obesity, genetic disorders, lack of physical activity, alcohol use, use of tobacco and cigarettes as well as unhealthy diet without vegetable or fruit intake.
Most common symptoms are irregular vaginal bleeding, sometimes between menstrual periods or after sex, back or pelvic pain, unusual vaginal discharge.
Women from 20 years and above are usually at high risk of cervical cancer infection hence health experts encourage regular screening through Pap smear or HPV tests.
Cervical cancer ranks as one of the most common female cancers in women between 15 and 44 in Zimbabwe where it accounts for 25 percent of all cancer cases and is one of the leading causes of death in Zimbabwean women, accounting for 23 percent of cancer related deaths.
About 110 686 women screened for cervical cancer in Zimbabwe last year and 77 percent of those who tested positive accessed treatment, according to Health and Child Care Minister Dr Constantino Chiwenga who is also Vice-President in his recent speech to mark World Cancer Day commemorated on February 4 annually.
The World Health Organisation says 9,6 million cancer-related deaths were recorded in the world in 2018, and 70 percent of deaths occurred in low and middle-income countries like Zimbabwe, where 2 751 people died of cancer in 2016.
Government is working on updating the Zimbabwe Cancer Prevention and Control Strategy to make it mandatory for citizens to be screened for cancer in certain age groups and men to also test for prostate cancer.
Treatment includes surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment is available at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo and Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare.
The theme for this year’s World Cancer Day was: “I am and I will campaign for prevention, Detection and Treatment of Cancer” and called for every world citizen’s participation in the fight against the deadly disease.
Most of those diagnosed end up in need of more money for injections meant to boost blood level and immunity before they can be treated and some eventually succumb as they cannot raise the money.
Mrs Attilia Siziba who is a traditional healer from Mzola in Lupane is another cancer patient struggling to get money for a second injection.
Her condition started as a tumour in the stomach in 2017 and has been operated on twice.
The cancer has developed to stage four and she has to raise US$185 for the second injection due next week.
“I started bleeding in December last year and they removed the cervix because it had been badly damaged. I am waiting for the third injection which I have no money for and I am in pain. I want to appeal to people to help me until I finish the injections in September,” said Mrs Siziba who stays with her husband in her rural home while her only son resides in South Africa.
Ms Catherine Moyo of West Nicholson has been suffering from cervical cancer for the past three years and started treatment last year.
Her daughter Ms Thembinkosi Moyo (32) who is a vendor says her mother has been bedridden for months on end.
“She can’t do anything and we take turns to help her. We are struggling to get money for the injections and we fear she might default as she has to go for her fourth. We need about US$300 every month including transport and life has not been easy because we have to leave work to accompany her to Mpilo. The doctors said the cancer has damaged her. She is due for her next appointment next week Thursday but we haven’t gotten any money so we are appealing for help and we are also thinking of approaching doctors and ask for postponement,” said Ms Moyo.
Ms Angeline Ncube (48) of Plumtree recently left Isagogwana to go back to her rural home after failing to raise the required money and she endures back pain and continuous bleeding.
Her husband lives in South Africa and she said he has been ignoring her messages ever since she told him about her condition last year.
She said she needs US$185 or R2 000 for the injections.
Ms Janet Ngwenya (54) of Ntabazinduna who is at Isagogwana said she has been continuously bleeding and is left with three injections for her to be able to go for chemotherapy.
For Ms Grace Musimeki who was transferred from Masvingo to Mpilo, the pain she experiences from the cancer has literally been transferred to her son Kin (25) who has been taking care of her at Isagogwana.
Kin has been doing the unthinkable according to his mother as he is the one washing and cleaning her blood discharge.
“Doctors told me I have cancer which was in stage 2 and I couldn’t raise money for medication and it has developed into stage 3. I came to Mpilo and they have prescribed two injections, each costing US$72. My privates were swollen and they recently took me for chemotherapy because of my condition and now I am struggling to get money for the required medicines.
“It’s hard for me and my son Kin now cleans my blood each time I bleed as I can’t walk or do any work,” said Ms Musimeki whose two other children are minors in school.
Gynaecologist Professor Solwayo Ngwenya who is also Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer said cervical cancer is common for women in Africa while most people present late when it’s difficult to treat.
“Most people present with cervical cancer at an advanced stage when we are unable to operate and they have to undergo palliative care in the form of chemotherapy or radiotherapy. There are injections that have been prescribed and patients have to get them because if not one will be defaulting treatment,” he said.
Prof Ngwenya urged women who are HIV-positive to screen every year and those who are not once in three years starting from 25 years to 65. — @ncubeleon.