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Young Victim of Smoking Leaves Legacy for the Youth

We opened up with a joke on his first name.

With a gentle smile, Erphacksand Kinyua Mureithi explained that the name was handed down to him from his paternal grandfather, although it is biblical.

The challenge of doing this story from an interview that Kinyua gave a month before he died, is that it has to be in the past tense.

Kinyua was one of the youngest lung cancer cases recorded at the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi.

Had he lived past July 23, he would have turned 30 in August.

Image of Lung CancerWhen Kinyua showed up for this interview, he was a brave young man who agreed to share with the world his experiences with lung cancer.

At the end of the interview, there was no mistaking the passion that he had for the legacy he wished to leave behind.

Leaders of Tomorrow

“If I had a forum, I would tell the youth that every decision they make in life will determine how they end up. I may not have been a smoker for a long time, but who knows, the disease might have caught up with me because of the few years I smoked. There is so much to live for because we are the leaders of tomorrow.”

Kinyua’s story is a point to ponder in light of the consequences of smoking.

The slim, soft-spoken man, seemingly humbled by an experience that came too early in his life, walked with a slight stoop.

However, he declared cheerfully to me that he had been feeling much better since he started treatment.

“It was bad. I could barely walk. I had to bend over because of the pain in my chest. Now I feel as if my lungs are all cleared up and I do not have to struggle to breath,” he said.

He was initially evasive about how he might have contracted lung cancer.

“I know I used to smoke, those years when I was young, playing truant and sneaking out of school for a puff or two. I never thought it was dangerous. Later I became an established smoker, not a chain-smoker. Just a casual smoker of about three or four cigarettes a day,” he said.

Bad Habit

“You never think about it, you just go ahead and smoke, not because you cannot live with the craving. It is just a bad habit that you develop, which becomes very difficult to shake off.”

About a year ago, in October, Kinyua who was then working as a casual labourer in Industrial Area started developing muscle pains on his right arm and back. He explained how the pain would attack him: “The pains could centre on the hands and slightly towards the right side of my chest. With time, they became almost un-bearable and the painkillers did not seem to work.

For almost six months, I was in and out of hospital getting a painkiller after another but with no satisfactory results.

Finally, a doctor that I had been seeing regularly recommended a CT scan to determine what exactly was ailing me. This is when a small growth in the chest was discovered.” Kinyua talked about the strenuous treatment that cancer patients go through.

“Were it not for my strong Christian background and the way the doctors prepared me for the hard news, I don’t think I would have made it. Also. As I later learnt, the tumours had been discovered fairly early and intercepted so I stood a better chance for recovery,” he had said gratefully and with a lot of hope.

His treatment included an operation on the chest to remove the malignant tumour.

Unfortunately the cancer had metastasised, meaning it had started spreading to other parts of Kinyua’s body.

After the operation, he stayed in hospital for one week before starting radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment to ensure that all cancer cells were destroyed.

Radiotherapy took six weeks, with two minute-sessions every day.

Even though radiotherapy has side effects such as nausea and weakness of the body, Kinyua said his worst experience was the chemotherapy treatment.

This involved, a dosage of a combination of six drugs within a certain period of time.

t meant being in hospital for about four to six hours while drugs are administered. ” Chemo is the worst. Excessive vomiting follows the initial treatments and nausea and severe lack of appetite, which can render you extremely weak. A while after every chemo session, you have to go in for yet another CT scan to detect how much of the cancer cells have been destroyed and how much more are yet to be dealt with. It is an exhaustive and tiring encounter,” Kinyua had sighed as he explained.

Also straining was the financial cost of the treatment.

Were it not for his supportive superiors Leonard Sebastian and James Mugambi and employer Laborex Kenya, Kinyua said that he might not have been able to pay the bills.

He was also grateful to his colleague Ann Kinyanjui who picked and dropped him at hospital throughout.

For his wife Helen Njeri, 26, with whom he had a three-year old daughter, Beatrice, Kinyua had only glowing tributes.

“After I had been so sick and I thought I was going to die, it is my wife and daughter who gave me the energy to want to live. It is not easy taking care of a sick person. I thank God for my family”.

Yesterday when notifying Helen about the intention to eulogise Kinyua in this special report, the young widow was overjoyed but saddened too.

“I wish he was here to read it. It is harder now that he is no more. I am alone with my child, it is difficult to even fathom how life is going to be without Kinyua,” she said.

Although Kinyua is honoured in this story posthumously, he becomes the face of a generation that faces challenges but is still determined to rise above debilitating afflictions. May he rest in peace.

Source: Mildred Ngesa, The Reporter,  Original Publication –The Nation (Nairobi)

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