By Chioma Obinna & Chinelo Azike
ONCE upon a time, Non-Communicable Diseases, NCDs, such as cancer, diabetes and High Blood Pressure were quite uncommon among Nigerians, to the extent that not too many people were aware of the existence of such ailments.
The few cases recorded happened among the aged population. Today, however, the situation is different.
High Blood Pressure, cancers, kidney disease, heart defects, diabetes among others are now order of the day among Nigerians of all ages. Cancer, in particular, is a big killer.
Almost daily, one Nigerian dies of one form of cancer or the other. The World Health Organisation, WHO estimates that 116,000 new cases of cancer and 41,000 cancer-related deaths were recorded in Nigeria in 2018.
With cancer becoming a major source of morbidity and mortality in Nigeria, poverty and lack of a supportive system continue to fuel untimely deaths.
Good Health Weekly spoke with Mr. Abdulganiyu Olalekan Kazeem who lost his 32- year- old brother, late Ibrahim Idowu, to cancer,(Leukaemia)a few months ago, even after the family had run from pillar to post and exhausted all they had. Excerpts:.. Based on the report
Undoubtedly, the death of a loved one will forever remain indelible in the hearts of families and friends. For many, it has no comparison. Losing a loved one or a younger one is an experience no one wants to imagine. It is like a book you don’t want to open.
Watching your younger brother suffer pains that have no definite solution is heartbreaking. It leaves everyone helpless and afraid waiting for doom’s day.
This was the situation, Abdulganiyu and his siblings faced while their late brother, Idowu, struggled with leukaemia (cancer of the blood). He died of the ailment at 32, leaving two children behind.
With pain in his voice, Abdulganiyu opened up on the struggle that started as Typhoid. It was a tale of the battle well fought but lost due to lack of financial assistance.
He betrayed emotion as he narrated to Good Health Weekly, how he watched his brother die on 23rd of July, 2019.
“Our family spent a fortune. We spent all that we had but could not save him at a youthful. he left behind two children,” he lamented.
It all started in January 2019 as Typhoid fever but little was it realised that within six months, Idowu would be history and his children orphaned at the ages of 6 and 3.
As a typical Nigerian, Idowu battled with the illness through all means possible.
“My brother battled Typhoid for months. The protracted nature of the illness got the family involved, especially, when his wife ran away to Ghana. At a point, we got him about three nurses to treat him at home but all to no avail.”
His brother’s sickness took another dimension when his wife, the mother of his two children abandoned him and the children.
“My brother has to struggle with his illness and children’s upkeep. The family was also affected. It was such a stress that I don’t pray for anyone. When there was no change in his condition, we decided to take him to a private hospital where he was diagnosed of anaemia.”
Sadly, Idowu’s transfer to a private hospital was like an eye-opener to the family as doctors that handling his case discovered he had anaemia, (shortage of blood) with 12 per cent Packed Cell Volume, PCV.
Abdulganiyu recalled the troubles to get five pints of blood for immediate transfusion
“We paid N15,000 for each pint of blood in the private hospital.”
Sadly, his ailing brother’s condition did not change and he was referred to the General Hospital Ifako, Ijaiye where a full blood count test revealed that Idowu had cancer of the blood.
Unfortunately, the hospital could not handle the case and he was referred to LASUTH. Abdulganiyu was in shock about the news that his younger brother had cancer.
“I was pained. I felt bad because I was told it cannot be cured. My mother and father are still alive. How would I break such news to them and that my brother was dying? It was not easy for me. I decided not to tell them.
“For six months of managing him at LASUTH, we spent N1.5 million. I was with him all through. Family members contributed and it was a lot of stress.
Among all cancers, I learned that leukaemia is deadly and I kept asking doctors what was the problem. They didn’t know the cause or the cure.
“When there was no more money, I went to the doctors and asked for a medical report to show that my brother had leukaemia. With that report, I wrote a letter requesting assistance to the Lagos State Government and took copies of the letter to the Governor’s office, Deputy Governor’s office, and the Ministry of Health. They collected the letters but we did not hear from them until the boy died.
“It was painful watching my brother die without assistance. I wish I could have done more to save him. My father and I were with him in the hospital,”,” he narrated amidst tears.
Further, Abdulganiyu narrated how their father cared for the sick Ibrahim while he ran around buying drugs, submitting or collecting test results and other things required.
“Since the day I was told he had incurable cancer, I was not happy and have been believing God for a miracle. If we had money he would not have died. We would not have left him like that. So we tried our best.
Abdulganiyu appealed to Nigerians to help save patients suffering from leukaemia by donating blood voluntarily without financial inducement.
“Most blood banks in our hospitals are empty but when people donate blood freely, patients who need it will be saved.” He also urged the government to subsidise treatment for people living with cancer as many are dying because of money.