Talking Cancer: What It’s Like to Finish Chemotherapy

Having done my last chemotherapy treatment session at the Cancer Diseases Hospital (CDH) on March 10, 2016, a day when I became one year older, I must admit I was really looking forward to the day. At long last it was the end of the nine (9) sessions of chemotherapy prescribed by doctors in September 2015 shortly after I had completed fifteen (15) sessions of radiotherapy treatment. When I started this treatment it almost seemed like it was going to last forever.

At the CDH chemotherapy treatment is always administered intravenously (I. V.) or through the drip if you like. I have never gotten used to needles, injections and pricking and I always wished there was another way I could get my chemotherapy treatment. I used to cause laughter in the treatment room each time a nurse pricked into my vein to put a cannula in readiness for the drip. In trying not to feel that little pain of the needle I would always joke with the nurse to ensure that he or she became the first person in the world to come up with a way of putting the cannula into the vein without the patient having to feel any pain. They would always advise me not worry as they would ensure by my next session, which was always after three (3) weeks, Zambia had become the first country in the world to administer a cannula on a patient with no pain at all. They were bluffing I knew but that is how committed to their work and reassuring to the patients that nurses at CDH are, unbelievable. Depending on the type of cancer and medication it may take anything from a few minutes, say ten (10), to twenty two (22) hours. My chemotherapy treatment only took a few hours.

A few days ago I had the opportunity to sit down with a businessman I met in a shop who revealed to me that as a result of reading and following this column, he went ahead to have prostate cancer screening at a leading private hospital in Lusaka. He further told me that his doctor informed him that his prostate specific antigen (PSA) was normal. Looking at him, I knew he was telling me the truth and there was no need for me to doubt him but I encouraged him to do a check-up at least once a year and he agreed. I spent almost thirty (30) minutes with him during which time I shared some vital information on prostate cancer with.

Over the last few weeks I have also had the opportunity to visit some fellow prostate cancer patients to offer encouragement and support. Some of these patients are actually much, much older than I am. Some are have just completed radiotherapy treatment while others are still on it with some on chemotherapy and other just out of it. While visiting these people individually I have told them that I too went through exactly what they are going through in terms of side effects. I have advised them to take prostate cancer like any other illness even though it is an aggressive ailment. I have urged them to be strong and assured them that the side effects are nothing but a passing phase in their treatment. Giving them a very clear example of myself who had dropped in terms of body weight from 72 to 53 kilogrammes in the early stage of my treatment, I have advised them to eat as much a balance diet as they possibly can. I have told each one of them that because of seriously eating a lot I am now weighing 75.5 kgs, a little more than 3kgs above what was my normal weight for a long time before I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Much as I understand the loss of appetite due to vomiting and diarrhoea I emphasised the importance of just telling the body to eat no matter what and to just have a mind of wanting to eat and saying no to throwing up. It worked for me and I am sure it can work for any other prostate cancer patient or anyone else with some other cancer for that matter.

With the coming into being of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Zambia (PCFZ) I intend to visit a lot more other men with prostate cancer especially in Lusaka to encourage them to be open about their condition as well as offer moral, spiritual and any other support possible. I strongly believe I am a living example of someone having knocked on heaven’s door but being turned back by God almighty to get on back down to earth to give hope and faith to my fellow prostate cancer patients that with His power no affliction is beyond him.

In August and September 2015 I was literally skin and bone, in severe pain, practically struggling to get up and move around and really not sure if I was to see the next sunlight. God my creator has been so graciously wonderful to me, I am living to tell my story.

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