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August 26, 2019
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Celebrating compassionate cancer care the Texas Cancer Centre way

Born in a family of ‘medics’, her grandmother; a traditional healer
inspired her into studying medicine. It is while she was studying
medicine at the University of Nairobi over two decades ago, that
Catherine Nyongesa first experienced the wrath of cancer when
Cimmonne Nyongesa; her sister, was suffering from uterine cancer and
she had to step in as the first born in a family of ten to take care of her
sibling. The fact that cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment is
extremely expensive and most patients can hardly afford the treatment
saw her share in her sister’s pain and suffering prompting her to develop
the burning desire to specialize in cancer treatment to save lives. After
graduating from the University of Nairobi with an undergraduate
Bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery, Dr. Nyongesa worked in
public health institutions as a General Practitioner (GP) until 2002 when
she landed a scholarship from IAEA (International Atomic Energy
Agency) to study at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa that
saw her pursue her dream emerging with a Master’s degree in Oncology.
She did not stop at that, she wanted to make a difference in as many
cancer patients as possible, and eight years later after she established the
Texas Cancer Centre, Dr. Nyongesa who is co-founder of the facility and
Oncologist in charge is building hope one patient at a time. This is her
story as narrated to Corporate Watch Magazine’s Ker Mogallo.
In Summary
– Dr. Catherine Nyongesa is a mother, wife, first born in a family of
ten and first female Radiation and Clinical Oncologist in Kenya
– She is one of the founding Directors and Oncologist in charge at
the Texas Cancer Centre
– Dr. Catherine Nyongesa supports public healthcare as one of the
Big 4 Agendas and Universal Healthcare for all. She participates in
policy formulation.
– She has participated in the formulation of the National Cancer
Guidelines and drafting of curriculum in collaboration with the
University of Nairobi to train Radiation Oncologists locally.
– She advocates for the waiver of taxes on cancer treatment
equipment and medication
– Her husband Samson Watta- a CVS Pharmacist in USA supports
TCC by mobilizing international expertise in giving back to the
community
– Texas Cancer Centre creates Cancer awareness in the community
and works tirelessly to improve their services to meet the needs of
their clients

In the year 2006, Dr. Catherine Nyongesa graduated at the University of
Witwatersrand, South Africa, with a Masters degree in Oncology-
returning home as the first ever female Radiation and Clinical Oncologist
in Kenya. Stationed at Kenyatta National Hospital, she learnt the ropes
amongst male oncologists in an environment dreaded for high radiation.
Her drive to beat cancer began soon after when she established the Texas
Cancer Centre in the year 2010.
" As a doctor at a public hospital, I had seen many cancer patients suffer
because of a limited number of lifesaving cancer treatment equipment to
tame their cancer and majority could not afford treatment in private
facilities. I felt I had to do something about the situation, besides, that
was the main reason I had become a cancer specialist,’ she narrated in an
exclusive interview at the Texas Cancer Centre now situated on Keri
road, off Mbagathi way in Nairobi.
The first Texas Cancer Centre was thus set up in Hurlingham, Nairobi in
June 2010 in a bid to fill the gap of specialized oncology care and cancer
treatment that was gradually widening. ‘When I realized that patients had
limited access to cancer care, I stepped up to fulfill my dream and set up
Texas Cancer Centre with the help of my Kenyan American husband-
Samson Watta a CVS Pharmacist in the USA with the view of offering
subsidized screening and treatment to patients who could hardly afford
cancer treatment,’ she said.

Growth…
According to research, cancer is on the rise with more and more people-
young and old being diagnosed with the disease every new day yet its
main cause is unknown. Dr. Nyongesa however notes that a number of
cancers are caused by our adoption of Western lifestyles, unhealthy
eating and the excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco.
" It is not news that research is still ongoing to get to know the causes of
various cancers, we however are all vulnerable to cancer. We must thus
adjust from our unhealthy lifestyles, avoid exposure to the sun and ensure
regular screening for early detection of cancer," declared Dr. Nyongesa.
Because of the rising number of patients who were patronizing her
facility in Hurlingham, Dr. Nyongesa was bound to seek a new home in
order to be able to cater to the rising population that sought her services.

With the much she had saved, she still wasn’t able to find a bigger
location. Her fighting spirit drove her to a local bank where she
successfully bid for a loan, bought land and began the construction of
TCC where it now stands.
From humble beginnings, the Centre now offers Radiotherapy,
chemotherapy, laboratory and diagnostic procedures, ultra sound,
pharmacy, blood transfusion, hydration and palliative care as well as in
and outpatient treatment. The Texas Cancer Centre also offers counseling
services; nutritional support, physiotherapy as well as a cancer support
group incorporating cancer patients who strengthen each other by sharing
their stories on how they beat the killer disease.
The facility, whose vision and mission is to be a center of compassionate
cancer care, is currently undergoing an expansion process that is expected
to be complete in about 36 months. Once complete, it is expected that the
bed capacity will rise and more patients will be able to receive
specialized care.


Currently, the facility caters to between 100 and 200 patients daily. Of
those, up to 60 are admissions. Dr. Nyongesa runs the facility with the
help of trained health workers, most of who are volunteers. Other staffs
include former cancer patients and health professionals in lab technology
and those that specialize in oncology.
Texas Cancer Centre prides itself in state of the art technologically savvy
Linear accelerator radiotherapy machines and chemotherapy for cancer
treatment. According to Dr. Nyongesa, the equipment used by her
institution has been inspected and certified by the radiation protection
board.
Milestones…


Cancer having been affirmed as an expensive disease, the Centre has
maintained Free counseling and offers telephone help lines to patients
and families for guidance and general support during difficult times. Even
though the Texas Cancer Centre offers Cancer care services at a much-
subsidized cost, patients still find it hard to afford the treatment. It is
however important to note that with the support of the Kenyan
Government that is currently launching the Universal Health Care
scheme; the Texas Cancer Centre was approved to accept the NHIF
medical insurance.

 

Despite being a facility that was set up as a calling, The TCC needs to
stay a float in order to offer quality care. Dr. Nyongesa, a wife and a
mother of three says the journey has not been smooth all the way. She
says that by minimizing the cost of treatment at her facility while offering
quality care is a delicate balance as the facility at times goes through
difficult financial times thus trading on the game of numbers.
She however says that operations of the Centre heavily rely on
volunteers’ goodwill.
Her passion and dedication are arguably the driving force behind the
success of the institution. She however confesses that it is never easy,
especially when she loses a patient.
" There are difficult times. Most of the time friends and family insist that
I deal with a lot and need counseling to stay sane. I however believe that
cancer is not a death sentence. It is a manageable disease and we can beat
it with the right care and positive energy,’ she says.

Bright future…
With the various advancements in medicine and research on cancer, Dr.
Nyongesa hopes for a brighter future. She however urges that the only
sure way to beat cancer is by early diagnosis. Adding that with proper
medication after early diagnosis and specialized care, one can live a
normal life and beat the disease.
Dr. Nyongesa hopes to gradually grow and have cancer centers in other
counties. She adds that Kenyans are the solution to beat cancer locally by
strengthening capacity in medical infrastructure and human resource.
‘Lets not wait for manor from heaven, Cancer is beatable and Texas
Cancer Centre will collaborate with other research institutions to try and
offer Kenyan solutions to local challenges related to cancer,’ notes Dr.
Nyongesa.


On policymaking, Dr. Nyongesa advises that Kenya has a lot of potential
and unmet needs in cancer care. She says the loopholes are in affordable
cancer care as Kenyans want affordable and timely treatment.
She adds that the government should consider waiving taxes on cancer
medication and equipment.
‘Hopefully, we will be able to make a difference in the lives of those
affected. Furthermore, we are dedicated and the Texas Cancer Centre will
drive the fight against cancer nationwide just like its role model,the MD
Anderson Cancer Centre is doing in Texas, United States of America.

 

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