13th November 2016, Karen
“Cancer never sleeps!” Audrey, a breast cancer warrior (survivor) says as her colleague Catherine adjusts her spectacles while nodding her head in agreement. “…. And neither should we sleep [to fight it]!” interjects Fr. Kiarie as he too gets into the conversation; a conversation that we all urgently need to have.
Globally, cancer is infamous for all the lives it has claimed. In Kenya the scenario is no different with studies indicating that 1 in 14 deaths in 2014 was caused by cancer translating to 39 deaths each day (Kenya National Bureau of Statistics). This is the reason behind the Cancer Awareness Day held at Regina Caeli Parish on Sunday 13th November 2016. Though the cancer awareness month falls in October, the Regina Caeli community decided to mark the day during the month of November, during which the Church traditionally remembers and prays for our departed brothers and sisters. And true to the Catholic tradition of praying for the departed, a mural was put up in the church with names of loved ones lost to the tragedy that is cancer. Although the list of names was not exhaustive, it served to show that indeed the disease does not choose race, creed, education, age or walk of life in its devastation. Special prayers were said in all masses for the souls of these persons and all other people who have lost their lives to cancer, are still fighting the disease or are in one way or the other affected. In addition, part of the day’s activities was a free health clinic offered by the Nyumbani Diagnostic Laboratory who were at hand to give advice on cancer related queries as well as provide free BMI, blood sugar and malaria testing for parishioners.
The main message of the day was quite clear: We can fight cancer, we don’t just have to stand aside helplessly and watch it deliver its deadly blows to our society. We have the power to rid Kenya of the scourge and indeed even the world. This message was delivered clearly by cancer warriors visiting the parish to deliver this message of hope and encouragement. The warriors who were invited by Ruth Were included, Audrey Barasa, Ezekiel Libamira and Catherine Mutua, who are all cancer survivors. They spoke of their experiences in surviving cancer and how each person’s journey with the disease is a unique one.
The one day event held at the church is obviously not enough in the effort against cancer. There is needed a continuous effort if the goal of having a cancer free Kenya is to be achieved. But this begs the question, how? How is it possible to have a cancer-free Kenya? Well according to our visiting warriors it is quite possible but it all begins with each and every one of us.
Early detection is one of the biggest weapons we have in this war. We need to use it. Awareness of how self-testing and even medical testing for the different forms of cancer needs to spread like wildfire on oil. We all need to talk about it! Secondly, Treatment has now become more accessible and more affordable. We should take advantage of advances in medicine. Today we have a lot of information everywhere, the question is, do we act on this information or do we just sleep on it? Opportunities appear all the time, for example the free medical clinics offered at the Church. How often do we visit them and get even the simplest advice on preventative measures like nutrition? Finally, prayer and support for the victims and the affected will go a long way in giving the spiritual and material support that they need. In the words of Pope John Paul II, “no one is too poor to give and no one is too rich to receive.” The journey of a cancer victim is one that is unimaginably hard. They need a lot of support. They often just need someone to talk to, someone to listen to them. “Be that person, don’t advise too much, just be there for the person,” advises Catherine who is speaking from experience.
As the conversation draws to a close Fr. Kiarie reminds us that a lot of what is required of us to beat cancer are works of mercy; works that have been encouraged by Pope Francis over this extraordinary jubilee year of Mercy. Let us all come together, together we can fight and together we will win this battle against Cancer!
Compiled by James Chege