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Cecilia Kiogora: Angel of mercy for Coast cancer patients

Written by Atieno Akumu

For the past eleven years, she has been helping cancer patients through the tough and frustrating journey that begins once they are diagnosed with cancer.

Like a general, Cecilia Kiogora has seen some of her patients fight the condition successfully to be bestowed the ‘coveted’ title of survivors. She has also seen others pass on after a long and protracted battle with the terminal disease.

However, when the inevitable happens, her focus shifts to the next patient requiring her care and comfort. Her hands are always full with patients to care for.

“My job is basically to manage cancer patients,” explains Kiogora with humility that belies the enormous task on her shoulders.

It is around 2pm as I sit for the interview and Kiogora discloses she has already made over 40 calls to patients who come for drugs, counselling and support at the Coast Hospice, where she works as a nurse.

When making telephone calls does not suffice, like in a case where a patient is bedridden, Kiogora along with three other nurses follow the patient physically to their respective homes.


She has been visiting patients in their homes in South Coast, Voi and other areas in the province, to ensure that their last days are peaceful and dignified.

“We also train kin to be caregivers to keep the bedridden patient from developing bedsores,” she says. Kiogora notes that the emotional burden that comes with having a cancer patient is enormous. And what’s more, the passing on of a breadwinner can be painful to the extent of causing children to desert homes.

“Cancer is a progressive condition and apart from ‘swallowing’  money, it also wears one down emotionally and psychologically, family members of the patient included,” explains Kiogora who attends to patients who suffer from breast, cervical and pancreatic cancers among others.

She says apart from a few cases, most of those who come to the hospice are people with progressed malignancies,  with their only remedy being palliative care to relieve pain and make them go about their daily business.

“Some patients come with stage three cancers and the only thing one can do in such a case is to offer palliative care,” notes Kiogora. She says the care and support helps the patients die in dignity.

According to Kiogora, those patients whom doctors diagnose with cancer at the onset of the disease have a higher survival rate. Some of the survivors who underwent radiotherapy 15 years ago and had their cancers dealt with visit the hospice every second week of every month to share on their triumphs over cancer with those still battling the illness.

“When survivors narrate how they have been able to embark on their daily activities like farming, it renders hope to those who may feel  like giving up,” notes Kiogora.

{jb_quoteright}“You surely cannot increase one’s days but you can help patients pass on peacefully and with dignity.”{/jb_quoteright}


When it is evident a family is  bearing a heavy emotional burden brought about by caring for a patient, she summons family members to reconcile before the patient passes on. Such a move helps to forestall any strife or blame games, especially before a patient dies.

Apart from counselling relatives, if it necessitates, Kiogora designates roles to relatives to ensure the patient gets a good diet and is well taken care of to avoid them suffering psychologically.

She gives an example of a prostate cancer patient who has to be changed clothes by his daughter in the absence of a male figure to take care of him. She says such a situation could make a patient sink deeper “into the dungeons of despair or even develop suicidal thoughts”.

“Imagine someone who was once  strong but is incapacitated by cancer to an extent that he cannot take himself to the toilet,” Kiogora laments.

She says families of pancreatic as well as liver cancer patients are among those who have to put up with a heavy emotional burden as the patients are prone to become hysterical.

There are a number of cervical cancer patients are also HIV positive. She attributes the cancer to weakened body immunity that exposes the body to opportunistic infections, cancer included.

“Only recently I met a patient who claimed not to have slept for 21 days due to pain from cancer of the pancreas,” Kiogora says adding, “I gave him a dose of liquid morphine and the following day, he thanked me profusely asking if I could give him my number.”

Patients with cancers that have progressed and are in pain are normally offered liquid morphine to alleviate pain.


However, Kiogora’s lowest moments  are when patients die after a short battle with cancer. According to Abigael Mwangi, the Coast Hospice administrator, people who come for palliative care and support have no money to pay for the drugs.

The Hospice is linked to the Coast Provincial General Hospital (CPGH) by the virtue doctors at Rahimtullah Ward (oncology ward) who refer patients to the Hospice for palliative care.

Mwangi says even though drugs at the facility are subsidised, patients still find it difficult to buy them, forcing the Hospice to give drugs to the patients free of charge.

Kiogora, who is an alumni of Nyeri Nursing School, says: “You surely cannot increase one’s days but you can help patients pass on peacefully and with dignity.”


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