A second chance at life

Today, at 4pm, a fashion show will be held at Pope Paul Memorial Hotel in Rubaga to raise awareness of the different types of cancers. Under the KinAfro Fashions label, Naome Kenyegamo Kirunda, the owner, is hoping to highlight choriocarcinoma, a cancer of the uterus, of which she was once a victim.

In 2013, something unusual started happening to the fashion designer and film producer. She started bleeding uncontrollably.

“It was nothing like menstruation. This kind of bleeding was on and off, there were times the flow would go on for a month and then stop suddenly.”

In addition, she often felt dizzy and weak, forcing her to seek medical attention at Rubaga Hospital. After numerous tests, the medics failed to diagnose the problem. Instead, they gave her antibiotics to take from time to time.

After realising that her condition was worsening, she decided to visit a gynaecologist in January 2015 at Nsambya Hospital. In addition to other tests, she was screened for cervical cancer.

“The screening process took about 20 minutes and I did not feel pain,” says the 32-year-old, adding that, “The results showed that I did not have the cancer. The gynaecologist hinted that the bleeding was probably due to the hormonal imbalance in my body. I was given drugs to control the bleeding.

Unfortunately, it did not stop. Some of her friends suggested herbal medicine but she rubbished the idea. Instead, she searched for answers from different online websites, as well as, seeking opinions from other doctors. A gynaecologist from Mengo Hospital aised that she should have her uterus cleaned.

“Some kind of rod was pushed through my cervix and thereafter some tissue was collected. It was that substance that was used to perform further tests.”

She was aised to pick the results a week later. However, when the time came, she was hesitant.

“At the back of my mind, I knew it was cancer. I remember breaking down into tears knowing that this was what the gynecologist was going to tell me. I knew I was finished.”

The doctor informed her that cancer had not been detected. She went back home and shared the good news with her husband, a businessman.

The ordeal begins

This joy was, however, short-lived when the mother of four, resting on her bedroom floor, suddenly felt blood gushing out of her vagina the next day.

“I was not feeling any pain despite the amount of blood but I soon began to feel dizzy. I managed to reach for the phone and called my husband, who was at work.”

A few moments later, she lost consciousness and woke up later in a bed at Nsambya Hospital, on a drip.

Kirunda was subjected to numerous tests, which finally revealed that she was in the stage one of a cancer of the uterus known as choriocarcinoma.

“I broke down. What scared me the most was that a pregnancy test was conducted and the results were positive. I was certain I was not pregnant. A doctor later explained that this was a common occurrence with women with this sort of cancer since their pregnancy hormone levels were high.”

Over time, she began to worry that the cancer would stop her from accomplishing her dreams of becoming a reputable fashion designer. However, the care and prayers from family members gave her hope to fight on.

The treatment

Kirunda started chemotherapy in February 2015 at the Rotary-Centenary Bank Cancer Centre in Nsambya Hospital.

“It was a horrible ordeal. They would inject me in the veins and I felt the medicine burn as it left the injection to the rest of my body,” she says, showing the scars on her arms.

The treatment was administered at intervals. For instance, she would receive a five-day dose and then take a break of about three weeks before resuming treatment. The medication, however, had side effects.

Besides pain, Kirunda lost her hair and her skin darkened. She skipped getting the treatment in the month of May because she did not have enough money for the bills.

“That treatment was very expensive,” she says.

“I would spend over Shs1 million in a week. I would pay Shs300,000 for the tests, Shs350,000 for a scan and Shs400,000 for the drugs. My husband was supportive and cleared most of the bills. There were people telling him to leave me but he refused and stuck by my side.”

Free from bondage

In June, Kirunda was subjected to more tests at the cancer centre. The cancer was gone. For clarity, she also went to Mulago Hospital and Ebenezer Clinical Laboratory. The two facilities also confirmed she was cancer free.

“The revelation made me very emotional. I cried tears of joy that day. It was as if a heavy load had been lifted off my shoulder.”

Although she stopped chemotherapy, she continued going for check-ups, to-date. Kirunda is more vigilant about her health now. For women experiencing similar symptoms, she urges them to seek urgent medical attention before it is too late.

About Kirunda

She began her fashion and design business eight years ago after completing her degree in Industrial and Fine Art at Makerere University. She also attended a course in fashion at JB Fashions in Mbarara District.

She ventured into film production as a producer and director five years ago. Having been an actress since her school days, she felt she was better placed to move to the next level.

So far, she has produced Lead Warror, Tim and the Exam, a Maisha Lab health project on typhoid, and other short films.

The proceeds from her fashion business go to fund her movies, and her intention is to produce a film every year.

Today’s fashion show kicks off at 4pm and tickets go for Shs10,000 for children, Shs20,000 in ordinary section, and Shs50,000 for VIP section.



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