When Gabriel Ng’ang’a Kamau’s mother was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2013, the family ran up and down seeking appropriate treatment to save her life. Sadly it was too late as the disease was at an advanced stage four and doctors told them there was nothing they could do to save her.
They told the family that she could only live for six more months and true to their word in May 2014, she succumbed to the illness. Kamau, from Maragua in Murang’a county could not bear the pain of losing his mother. After mourning her for some time, the IT expert started an initiative to sensitise people to go for screening in order to help in detecting the killer disease early.
Through his company, Afrinet Limited, he is using social media platforms and bulk messages to remind people to go for screening in government hospitals. He is targeting the rural population and his services are free. Using his Ng’ang’a Kamau Foundation as a platform, he believes he will reach as many people as possible.
With his initiative dubbed Afya Text Screening Sensitisation, Ng’ang’a hopes to reach out to 100,000 people by close of this year and a million by mid next year. The text message, he says would jolt people into action and it might end up saving lives.
“People in rural areas do not have access to information like their counterparts in the urban centres and my initiative will give them the information they need,” he said. Kamau believes that early detection is key to preventing diseases.
His mother, he said, started feeling unwell in 2012. She was frequently ill and was growing thin. It never occurred to them that she was gravely sick until it was too late. He says if only they had thought of taking her for a routine check-up, the disease would have been detected early enough and she would probably be alive.
“She used to make fun that she is slimming. When she discovered she had cancer, she could not handle the news,” he said. In a span of six months, they had made two trips to India, but her health deteriorated quickly.
“The treatment was expensive. We tried all we could, but it was too late,” he said. It is for this reason that Kamau is using social media and bulk messaging to remind others that it is important to seek medical care early. Lack of adequate information about the disease has largely contributed to many deaths. Many people rush to the hospital when it already too late. This is what he hopes to change.
“I would be happy to hear 80 per cent of the population in this country has gone through cancer screening. I intend to do the messages in various native languages to reach out to as many people as possible in the country,” said Kamau.
He cites affordability of the tests, lack of symptoms, no family history, negative perception about the tests and not getting a recommendation from a doctor as some of the reasons people shy away from screening.
October being the cancer awareness month, he calls for the government to put more efforts to help fight the disease, which is claiming many lives in the country. “There is still a huge information gap in the country and there is need to enlighten people about cancer,” he said.