Sharon Wambui was diagnosed with malignant melanoma when she was in Class Six. Today, the 23-year-old woman is blooming with life after beating the disease
Sandra Wekesa @PeopleDailyKe
Acancer diagnosis can be a debilitating reality for many and the most haunting images of patients are those showing people in a weak state, hanging on to life with every ounce of strength left in their bodies.
Sharon Wambui, a 23-year-old woman who was diagnosed with malignant Melanoma when she was in Class Six, is the antithesis of this picture.
Wambui is blooming and full of life. Her smile depicts that of a girl who is making up for lost time, having had to fight cancer when she was just about to become a teenager. She is among the many people in the world who have beaten cancer. “My journey with cancer started when I was in Class Six in 2006. I noted something that looked like a corn on my leg; it wasn’t really painful so, I didn’t bother following up or even going for check-ups. Somethings just skip your mind when you believe that you are healthy,” she says.
Considering the fact that she was quite young and didn’t have any knowledge of the gravity of the situation, Wambui used cornstarch to get rid of the corn. “Women get blisters, especially after a long day of walking with closed shoes. It doesn’t necessarily have to be closed but even uncomfortable shoes end up causing a mole. At this time I was 12 years old. My mum is a nurse, so she insisted that I needed to go for check-up. It was removed without going through any biopsy,” she says.
Sharon reveals that it didn’t take long before another mole began to grow on her leg. “This happened five years later in 2011 after my first surgery, this time round I decided to see an oncologist, who had an idea of what was really happening to my body. The reason I went to an oncologist was because a lump had developed on my thigh. I was booked for an appointment, which was scheduled four months later,” she said.
On the day she went in for the appointment, the doctor sent her for a biopsy. “While I was inside the theatre, the doctor kept on mentioning some words like malignant and melanoma. I was to wait for about 10 days before my results could be released. I instantly knew that this was something cancerous,” says Wambui.
In the same year, two weeks after her diagnosis she was taken to India for treatment. “I was found with malignant melanoma, cancer of the skin, stage two. I was booked by a surgical oncologist who operated on my toe, thigh and stomach to block the cancer from spreading. Five months later when I went back for a test I was declared cancer-free.”
Texas Cancer Centre Oncologist Dr Catherine Nyongesa, says malignant skin cancer is rare in Kenya. However, most people prone to skin cancer are living with albinism. “There are three types of skin cancer; Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Malignant Melanoma. The types of cancer also depends on the race, or the type of skin. That is why most of the time they are grouped in two types. Malignant melanoma is common to Africans while the non-melanin affects people who have low melanin,”she said. According to statistics about five people are diagnosed with skin cancer on a daily basis.
Dr Nyongesa who has 15 years experience in treating cancer has dealt with very few cases of skin cancer. “There are many causes of skin cancer, some are not even recognised. Explosure to sun rays is the leading cause. Another thing people fail to understand is skin cancer can also come from burns. The ulceration that dwells on the skin and barely heals if not looked into could cause skin cancer,” she says.
She urges people to visit the hospital anytime they notice a mole that is growing on the skin. “You may think it is a beauty spot, but they could be really harmful to the skin. Also being a rare type of cancer, it doesn’t mean that it’s not treatable. Early diagnosis may save you from making the situation worse for yourself. Surgery is usually done to block the cancer from spreading,” she says.