January 29, 2023

Kenyans, on Monday, took to social media to express their frustration for losing three leaders to cancer in a span of one month.

A majority of Kenyans noted that it was about time the government waged a concerted war against cancer and declare it a national disaster.

Deaths resulting from cancer in Kenya are alarming. Treatment of cancer is expensive because the drugs don’t have alternatives.

Patients diagnosed with cancer are usually referred to hospitals abroad, where they incur high medical bills running into the millions.

A cancer test reportedly costs about Ksh13,000 in the country and the most affordable cancer treatment reportedly costs Ksh 500,000. Low- and middle-income earners, the largest segment of the population, cannot afford to pay such amounts.

Add to that the cost of treatment, palliative care and transport fare to the hospital.

Most families can’t afford this and resort to fundraising.

Effective management and treatment of cancer require screening and detection, availability of specialists, chemotherapy services, essential drugs for pain management and adequate infrastructure in treatment, all of which are not forthcoming at the moment.

Here are some reactions from Kenyans:

Governor Joyce Laboso’s death

Bomet County Governor, Joyce Laboso passed on Monday, July 29 at the age of 58.

A  statement from her office, early Monday morning, through the director of communication, Ezra Kirui, stated that Laboso was recuperating but under observation.

Laboso had been admitted at the Nairobi Hospital for the past two weeks in the ICU.

Details of what ailed the governor had never been shared to the public, but upon her death, the family revealed that she was suffering from colon cancer.

Her passing comes two weeks after she silently jetted back to the country on July 14 after a medical trip to India and the United Kingdom.

She left the country on May 29 for the United Kingdom (Royal Madden NHS hospital) where she stayed before being transferred for further treatment in India.

She was the second governor of Bomet County after beating Isaac Ruto in the 2017 general election.

During the 46 days, she was out of the country, Deputy Governor Hillary Barchok had been running the county’s affairs with the assistance of County Secretary Evalyne Rono.

Her body was transferred to the Lee Funeral Home, where leaders flocked to view her body as they paid their last respects.

Ken Okoth’s Death

Kibra MP, Ken Okoth passed on at The Nairobi Hospital on Friday, July 26 at the age of 41.

He was rushed to the medical facility on Thursday after his condition deteriorated. He had suffered multiple organ failure.

Close sources revealed that he had specifically stated that he did not want to be on life support and on Friday afternoon, he was pronounced dead.

Okoth had been diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer which he announced in February 2019.

After he went public about his illness, Ken Okoth travelled to France to seek treatment.

During his stay in Paris, he would often engage with Kenyans online to keep them abreast of his progress.

Appearing in a past interview, Okoth told a local newspaper how he had been on treatment for ulcers and bacterial infections for about a year, not knowing he had cancer.

Doctors had also prescribed for him pills to manage stress and anxiety.

It was only when he sought a second opinion that he discovered that he had colorectal cancer.

The disease develops from both the colon and rectum and is regarded as the second and third leading cause of cancer deaths.

He returned to the country early this month to a rousing welcome from Kenyans who had rallied behind him, lauding him for his brevity in fighting cancer.

Bob Collymore’s Death

Safaricom chief executive officer Bob Collymore died at his home early Monday morning on July 1, 2019.

He died at the age of 61 after a long battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). 

In the recent past, he had been receiving treatment at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi.

In October 2017, Collymore travelled to the United Kingdom to receive treatment and returned in July last year to resume his duties.

During an interview in August 2018, Bob Collymore opened up on his journey battling with cancer.

I went to London and they told me I had acute myeloid leukaemia- a rare kind of blood cancer that is curable. I was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors told me at the time that I had probably had it for about 6 months he revealed,” said Bob Collymore.

If I were not CEO at Safaricom, if I worked at the call centre, for instance, I would get the same medical access. I have 6 colleagues currently undergoing cancer treatment,” he added. 

He took charge of Safaricom in 2010 on a three-year contract after the company’s founding CEO, Michael Joseph, retired.

His contract had been extended multiple times as a result of his success and was scheduled to exit the firm in 2020.

In December 2018, Mr Kenyatta appointed Collymore a member of the Kenya Vision 2030 Delivery Board for a three-year term.

In May this year, Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki appointed Collymore to the National Cancer Institute board.

Mr Collymore left behind a wife and four children.

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