From cancer survivor to cancer campaigner

HARARE - Cancer patients lack cash for treatment, proper counselling and support from health practitioners who deliver the bad news to them, a cervical cancer survivor has said.

“When I was told I had traces of cancer, my first thought was I was going to die, and at that time I needed someone to tell me it will be fine,” says 34-year-old Talent Yakado, a waitress at the Book Café in Harare.

Yakado said she was told she had cancer after her third baby when she went for her pap smear.

“They told me they had spotted some bacteria and gave me some antibiotics and told me to return after three months,” she told the Daily News.

“I went back again and I was told they could see traces of cancer, I could not believe it. That time it was even hard for me to afford the $20 pap smears and now I was gripped by fear that I might actually have cancer.

“And so I delayed going back for screening.”

Early diagnosis is the key to surviving cancer. But in countries like Zimbabwe, cancer develops unrecognised in the patient until it presents physical symptoms, by which time it is often too late to bring the disease under control. Cervical cancer constitutes a third of all the cancers and is found in the cervix, the lower narrow part of the uterus.

Its toll in Zimbabwe is sharply rising because of inaccessibility of expensive screening and treatment to the average woman in the country.

Yakado said some women die from cancer because they are afraid of knowing they have the diseases and avoid going for screening.

“The nurse who broke the news to me just said it like it is, that I had cervical cancer, no counselling no what. I had to request for another nurse to really explain to me and what it would mean to my family and I,” she said.

“The nurse told me to look after myself, and look for a private doctor because public hospitals were going to put me on a long waiting list, she said I had to be strong for my family and I.”

According to radiotherapy officials at Parirenyatwa Hospital, cervical cancer victims have to fork out on average of at least $910 for the whole treatment procedure, depending on the stage of the cancer.

“As a waitress I knew it was going to be hard for me to raise the money, this is when all the problems started,” said Yakado.

“I was however, bailed out by my boss after I told him the situation I was in. I then contacted Prof Chirenje, the doctor who treated me, to start my treatment.

“My bills amounted to $470 for the treatment and I was treated of cancer on September 28, 2011.”

She admits she was fortunate as many women were dying. Over 5 000 cancer cases are registered annually at the Zimbabwe national cancer registry.

After surviving cancer, Yakado started her own cancer awareness organisation called Tanyaradzwa Cancer of Zimbabwe to help educate and support women in aspects of cancer.

“Nobody really talks about cancer unless if its cancer month or when someone has died of cancer that is why I am trying to collaborate with the ministry of Health,” she said.

Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).

HPV is a virus that is passed from person-to-person through genital contact, most often during sexual intercourse.

Women die of cervical cancer because they lack knowledge and due to the fact that cervical cancer screening is expensive, Yakado said.

Zimbabwe however, introduced free cancer screening at government hospitals as well as municipal clinics to improve Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIAC).

The programme is expected to run for four years and will contribute to the government’s efforts to meet its Millennium Development Goals of reducing maternal mortality and reducing HIV infection. - Bridget Mananavire

Comments (1)

Am a middle aged woman living with HIV virus and was screened for cance through the VIAC and it came out positive. I went for a pap smear it it shows again that cancer cells are developing on my cervics. The GP whom am seeing suggested for the removal of the cervics since it is on early stages but the problem I have is that am scared since I was told that its a major operation. What 's your advice on this. Please help

Ms Mushava - 19 February 2016

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