12 August 2016

I watched as my husband succumbed to cancer

It was as if she had known each one of us for a while. From time to time, she would ask us individual questions on career, family and life in general.
She also shared about some of the activities she is involved in and encouraged the team to be part of them.

She is an economist by profession but says she has for the past 16 years been an advocate for women because of their disadvantaged position in society. This includes women in agriculture, business, policy level and governance.
One of the activities Kasule personally requested me to get involved in was to continuously use media platform to sensitise the masses on the fight against cancer.

“Use your podium to take up the initiative to fight this expensive and silent killer disease,” Kasule tells me.
As I was to find out shortly when she shared her life story, the fight against cancer is personal for Kasule whose husband Mathew Kasule, succumbed to colon cancer in May 2015.

His cancer started as a pimple on the back
The first sign which surfaced in 2007 came as a pimple in the back just above the bum, where the spinal cord ends. Since it did not appear harmful, Kasule scratched it.
“A friend of ours who is a medical personnel prescribed him a few tablets and creams,” Kasule says.

The pimple disappeared only for another to surface in 2009 just next to where the first one had appeared. Once again, Kasule applied the prescribed cream and swallowed the tablets.

Although the second pimple healed too, it took a little longer to respond to the medication this time round.
In 2011, another pimple surfaced in the exact area where the first one had appeared, this time bigger and with pus. “This worried and forced us to visit Nsambya hospital where the pus was extracted, and the wound dressed,” Kasule narrates. “It healed up a few days later but left a scar behind.”

In 2013, the couple got more puzzled when another pimple surfaced, burst and left a bigger wound. Then they started to wonder what was causing the pimples. Once again, the wound was attended to at Nsambya hospital. It did not, however, heal as fast as the previous ones.

Around May 2014, Kasule started complaining of constipation, which persisted even after a diet change. A scan showed everything was normal but an examination of the anus revealed a tumor. Because it was suspected to be the cause for his difficult bowel movement, it was suggested that it be removed.

The operation took place the following day from 2pm to about 5.30pm where samples were also taken for a biopsy (an examination of tissue taken to find out the cause of a disease). “When he was dressing up after we were discharged, I remember getting shocked upon seeing two swellings that had suddenly surfaced in the areas where the pimples had been. They looked like chicken eggs but I did not mention anything to him,” recounts Kasule.

The doctor called sooner than expected and insisted the late Kasule goes to see him for the biopsy results. “We went to see him and that was when we received the shocking news that my husband had Stage Two colon cancer. He was devastated but I remained strong because I had faith that it could be stopped from spreading.”

Kasule, who was still strong enough to work, was not in a rush to start the cancer treatment at cancer institute as referred by the doctor at Nsambya hospital. An economist too, he reasoned there was still a lot to be done and the treatment would only make him weak. Around that time, one of the egg-like swellings burst leaving a wound that was oozing pus. “Then, I insisted it was time to go to the Cancer Institute and start the treatment,” Kasule says recalls.

Nightmare at the cancer institute
Around September 2014, the couple made their way to the the old cancer building at Mulago hospital. “I was in utter shock upon arrival.

There were so many people queueing for treatment. Everyone looked sick and miserable,” she says.

Her husband had to wait sleeping on the verandah and when he was admitted, he had to sleep on the floor waiting for a free bed to be available. “We had to do some tests and buy some drugs elsewhere, which turned out to be expensive. Just one tablet could cost Shs30,000 and yet we’d need about seven of them in a week,” Mrs Kasule narrates.

Away from the drugs, we were also spending a lot of money on disinfectants. At some point, a bar of washing soap really meant a lot to Kasule who was husband’s care taker. She spent a month at the institute where he even underwent radiotherapy (use of high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells in the area that is affected).


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