Kondwani Nkowani’s Childhood Cancer Story.
It began with a painless swollen eye. Alarmed, my mother took me to our local clinic in Isoka where we were referred to Kitwe General Hospital. After several tests, the doctor told me “Kondwani, you have cancer.” The news was so shocking to me. I asked myself many questions but had very few answers. This is because I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma stage 3 in 2015 when I was only 15 years old. The cancer was in my lymphatic system and had spread to my left eye. To avoid the disease spreading further, the eye was removed.
Eventually, we were referred to the Cancer Diseases Hospital (CDH) in Lusaka for my treatment. I was put in the children’s cancer ward because I was a kid then. All this was happening whilst I was in an examination class. I was in grade 9. However, due to the harsh side effects of the treatment, I only managed to sit for 4 papers and sadly missed the rest. But I made a commitment to focus on my health. Initially, I did 6 cycles of chemotherapy but I was not getting any better. I persevered. In 2016, I rewrote my grade 9 exams and passed with 445 points.
I started a new school journey at David Kaunda Technical School in Lusaka, near CDH. It was exciting to be in secondary school and meeting new people. But it was also a difficult phase because I was a boarder and still on cancer treatment. When it was time for treatment I would go to the hospital after classes. The doctors at CDH were very nice to me. They would stay up late and wait for me to knock off from school so that they could administer the treatment to me. My teachers were very accommodating too! I could spend the night at the hospital and attend classes the following morning. But there were days I would miss class because of the side effects of chemotherapy. I would feel dizzy, weak, itchy, and vomit from time to time.
As if that was not enough to deal with my friends started laughing at me because of my looks. I was pale, my skin changed, and I lost my hair as well. I could only find comfort in God. While all this was happening, my mother was staying at the hospital while I was in school so she could be by my side when it was time for my treatment. Home is Isoka, in Muchinga Province so transport for her to go and come back every two weeks to take care of me during the treatment was a challenge. So, she decided to stay in the hospital alone and visit me very often at school.
In 2019, I was in grade 12 and still on treatment. As a result, I missed some classes and this caused me so much pain. But through God’s grace, I came out victorious! I was declared cancer-free on 24 July 2019. In total, I had done 24 cycles of chemotherapy.
Later that year I wrote my final exams and passed very well scoring 8 points. Growing up I wanted to be a pilot but now I want to be a doctor because those doctors who treated me inspired me a lot. I applied to the University of Zambia and have been accepted for the 2021 intake. Unfortunately, my parents are not able to sponsor me but hopefully, I will get a government bursary.
My cancer journey taught me that ‘…the race is not to the swift… but time and chance favor everyone.’ Ecclesiastes 9:11. I put my faith in God and I am healed. Trust in God and all will be well. My name Kondwani means “Be Happy,” and I am HAPPY!