cancerFrom my Diary


The procedure room is not technically a room, calling it a room is a misnomer. If you doubt it, then you can come and see for yourself. It is just a space with an examination bed that can be transformed into various shapes, three large bins; a red, yellow and a black one labeled highly infectious, infectious and non-infectious respectively, a white bucket containing a jik solution, and a large table holding stitching packs, an emergency kit, needles, branulas, syringes and bottles upon bottles of drugs. It basically contains a doctor’s paraphernalia. The ‘room’, is delineated from the rest of the ward by two almost blue or green (I don’t know colors) curtains that are stained by the brown of rust. The curtains only cover the front part, the part where people pass when they want to get to side A of the ward, or to the nursing station or the doctor’s admission desk. It is open on the part that faces my bed.

The bed next to mine is occupied by a small boy, about fifteen. He walks around wrapped in two lesos, with blood trickling down his legs, discoloring the tiled hospital floor. You would be forgiven if you asked him, “why don’t you get a pad for your menses?” but he is a boy. His bleeding is a result of circumcision gone wrong. The doctor, the big one says that he needs to be referred to a bigger centre, like Kenyatta National, otherwise, he will bleed out all he’s got( God grant him life). He has hemophilia, hemophiliacs should NEVER be circumcised.

I have been here for six weeks, six and a half days now. When I look to my left, my eyes lock with those of the young man. It is boring watching him. He is so young, and helpless. He should be in some forest picking berries, or herding cattle, not seated in hospital thinking about life. But now he is stuck here, his old man cannot afford the money to transfer him.

When I look to my right I see the whole procedure room. Sometimes, there is nothing going on in the procedure room. Sometimes I look as doctors suture (fancy name for stitching) patients. Other times I see them inserting their index fingers up the anuses of old men with large prostates, I watch as they close their eyes trying to estimate the real size of the damn prostate, and finally as they withdraw the finger and give it one long look, to see if it is blood or stool that stains their glove. Watching, you would think they enjoy doing it. I see as the nurses dress the young man who is burnt all over his body. I listen to the way he keeps screaming as layer after layer of gauze is brought out of his body. I hear the way the nurses tell him to behave or they will leave. I hear the “shit” of the nurse when he accidentally steps on her. I even heard when one nurse told him, “but I never sent you to steal”. So he is a thief, he could have died, he didn’t. He cheated death. I always close my eyes as the last layer of gauze is pulled off his body. His screams become continuous at this point. I guess real tears flow down his cheeks. I never look until after twenty minutes when the last layer of gauze is being applied.

The air is no longer acrid. The tablets don’t even nauseate me these days. I am used to the retching, and the bilious smell of vomits. It is not cold any more, not even when windows are left open. I have learnt to ignore the dark tall nurse who acts as if she is in her periods forever. I have stopped feeling ashamed of my frame. I have resigned to the fact that I no longer have dignity. I don’t even tell people about four years ago. I don’t tell them that once there was fat and flesh under my cheek bones. I don’t even tell them that there was a time when my collarbone couldn’t be felt let alone being seen. I don’t even bother to tell them that once, my ribs were deep inside me. I no longer have a private part. The doctors have seen my body as many times as I have seen it in these four years that have passed. I don’t find it shameful to be stripped in front of thirty pairs of eyes.
I have become used to the fact that I am special. I don’t squat to poop. That, I used to do four years ago. I miss walking to the toilets. I miss sitting on the toilet seat; I miss flushing water down that seat. I no longer use my ass hole. Colon cancer took that away from me as well. The surgeons said I had an inoperable tumor. It was too large that it blocked the intestines. That explained the long, long calls that I used to have before diagnosis, and the bleeding per rectum. I didn’t know. I should have sought treatment early, when the tumor could be operated.

I don’t know how I never thought about cancer. My grandfather had colon cancer. He even died of it. It should have been a learning process. It wasn’t. We buried him and thought we were done with cancer. “But these things run in families,” I remember a young doctor telling me. I wonder why it picked on me, at twenty. It stripped away my youth, the fat from below my cheeks and all my dreams. I wonder why it came again after claiming my maternal grandfather. Why it came when my life was just beginning, when I was just waking up to live my dreams, when I was plunging myself to the business of living. I wonder why it is claiming me this early, even before I leave any seeds here.

Every time I fall asleep, I just want to wake up and live. I think of all the dreams I had and tears drip down my face. I have spent a fair share of my cancer life in hospital. I no longer feel the pain of the injections. I should be used to the hospital by now, it has been my home for long, long enough to last me another life time. I am used to the sighing of pain, and to the cries of distress. I even don’t mind the attitudes of the nurses and the cleaners and the doctors.

The cancer has been progressing over the four years, in two years it had already spread to the liver, making my eyes yellow. Over four years, it has converted me from an independent man to almost a toddler. The change has been a drastic one, but now it has paused. Now I am suffering the effects of radiotherapy. I got a perforated gut and fecal matter dripping from below my umbilicus. I have lived for three weeks on some fluids but no food. I have not been able to move. The doctors don’t know what to do yet. Miraculously, the perforation stopped draining, and I am eating again. A lady from the palliative care came to see me and we talked about end of life. I am reading two leaflets now, entitled light and darkness, they are about heaven and hell.

I know where the journey comes to a close, but I still hate the sound of a trolley being pulled over concrete. I hate the masked be-gloved men in green. I hate the way they look and how they handle the dead. I hate fridges and I don’t want to be in one any soon. I hate yellow and white roses. I hate my mother’s tears, and my father’s long depressed face. I still want to drink my mother’s home made carrot juice. I still want to be held. I want to watch one more sun-rise. I am not ready yet. Heaven please, wait. I will be on my way soon. Grant me another day God, that I may see the white that’s my mother’s teeth one more time. Until then, it is not over yet.

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Doreen Saringi

Hey there, welcome. I am Dr. Oyunge. Books are my second love and writing is my third. Once I take off my white coat, I pick my pen.

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Jacqueline OwangosaringinOwen HabelDavid Ooko Recent comment authors
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David Ooko
David Ooko

I have such a negative view of hospitals and our healthcare system in general. I think it goes back to a time when my father was ill, hospitalized at Homabay District Hospital, and it was so bad he preferred to go home and die than stay. This experience is the basis for my short story ‘A Pair of Orbs’, which you can see in my blog [link: or the Story Moja website [Link:

Owen Habel

Such a sad story

Jacqueline Owango
Jacqueline Owango

Holding back the tears. Speechless.

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