Levi Kones is a husband, a father of three daughters and a journalist by profession. He describes himself as an adventurous person who loves life. He narrates his story to Nation.co.ke.
“It all started as an on and off stomach ache around November of 2017. By December, I assumed I had consumed bad food because of the Christmas festivities. I then started experiencing weakness of the body.
Come January of 2018, I purposed to go for a check-up which did not happen because there was always something happening over the weekend.
I started having dizzy spells toward the end of February and that progressively got worse until I fell into a seat while at work one day in March.
I called my wife, who then said we could not push the check-up any further and that it needed to happen on that day. We went to Coptic Hospital after work and saw a doctor who said we had to do tests to ascertain what was wrong.
The results took some time to come out because it was almost midnight when we went in to see the doctor again. She asked me whether I walked into the hospital, to which I answered in the positive. She then told me that my haemoglobin level was at 4.7. I did not know much about that, so she explained that the normal level for males is between 15 and 17 and for females between 14 and 16 because of their menses. She said that cases of levels below 5 are usually on stretchers, yet here I was at 4.7 and walking.
I had to be admitted, something which I was opposed to because I only came in for a check-up. I wanted to come in the following day, if need be. The doctor explained that she was not sure I would make it back the following day because if I collapsed, I wouldn’t come out of it. That sealed the story.
I had to receive seven pints of blood while admitted. The low blood count meant that I was haemorrhaging, and they had to find out where from in my body. That meant more tests, which were CT scans, abdominal scans, an endoscopy and a colonoscopy. I got my results back a week later, which showed that I had a tumour in the colon. They had to take it for biopsy to determine if it was cancerous. I had a feeling it was.
My wife and a friend accompanied me to get the results. It was written all over the doctor’s face when we got into his office. He barely looked at me when he told me that the tumour was cancerous, and he immediately went into statistics. He said that it was in its third stage, it did not look well because my colon was almost completely blocked and that only four out of 10 cases survive this.
None of us talked when we left that office. My friend went home, and my wife and I did so too. I didn’t sleep that night; neither did my wife. I was in shock. All I could think about was my daughters, and whether I would survive it. One thing I knew was that I would give this fight the best I could.
We were referred to a surgeon, who unlike the one who broke the news, had a lot of hope. Surgery was the first option, and three weeks later, I was wheeled into theatre at the Mater Hospital. I was out six hours later, and was told that they had caught the tumour. A large part of my colon had to be removed and the remaining parts reattached.
About two weeks later, I was back in surgery because of an infection in the colon. I had just learnt how to walk and this surgery meant going back to square one. It was a very depressing moment for me.
I began chemotherapy in July, and as of now, I have undergone 12 sessions. The first three sessions were the most brutal. I vomited almost all through the first one but I started getting a hang of it by the third session.
Before treatment, I had been given a list of all the possible side effects chemotherapy could have on me. The only ones I had were stomach upsets, a funny feeling in my toes and fingers, and rashes which were on and off. They all happened at different stages of the treatment. In two weeks, I am to see my oncologist to see if we killed all the cancer cells.
I underestimated the emotional load that comes with cancer and chemotherapy. I was distressed when I got to the ninth session. I was tired and didn’t want to go ahead with treatment. As much as I had immense support from friends and family, I felt like the journey was getting too long.
What really kept me going was that this was not entirely about me, but also the people dependent on me.
I started writing a lot, especially on my Facebook page, documenting my journey through chemotherapy. I found out that the more I talked about it, the more I drew strength, not only from what I was telling others, but from what I was telling myself.
I realised I didn’t know as much about cancer as I initially thought I did. I had to learn many terms and definitions. I also learnt that cancer treatment is very expensive in Kenya. I realised how much stigma is associated with cancer because so many people I was going through treatment with had not mentioned a thing to anyone, not even their close family members.
I came to learn that caregivers go through a lot too, and they should be taken care of. My wife has had to learn more about cancer even more than I have. The cancer has been detrimental to her health too, especially with sleep and emotional stress.
Children get traumatised, and I got to learn this with my youngest daughter. The older two understand cancer, but my four-year-old only knew that dad was unwell and had to go to hospital sometimes.
When I came home from surgery, she mistakenly saw my stitches. The next day at school, she made a drawing of me in stiches and showed it to her teacher saying that someone cut her dad. We realised that we had to pay more attention to their emotional wellbeing after we got the call from her teacher.
We ran out of money quick because not even our insurance could cover the treatment. But my friends and family have supported us in a big way, some of whom have continued helping us to date.”
The Cancer Warrior story series tells the stories of cancer survivors. To share your cancer story, email [email protected]