My Name Is Victor Phiri And This Is My Story.
One day after my daily morning gym workout, I felt strong back pain. Assuming it was just muscle friction, I ignored it. However, the pain slowly intensified becoming severe during the night. I could barely stand prompting my housemate to take me to Hilltop Hospital. Upon arrival, I was put under observation and given some painkillers. By the following morning, the pain had improved somewhat. I was given some more painkillers and discharged.
However, the pain persisted and started to limit my ability to carry out certain tasks. So, I went back to the hospital and this time around I was put on very strong pain medication. In the meantime, they also did a lot of tests including a CT scan. Some tests were sent to South Africa for evaluation. While all this was happening, I was in my final year at Lusaka Apex Medical University studying pharmacy. I was also busy preparing for my final exams which were in two months’ time.
THE DREADED DIAGNOSIS
Eventually, the hospital had all my results and knew exactly what was wrong with me. I was apprehensive but I had to hear what the doctor had to say. As I held my breath, the doctor gave me the life-shattering news that I had MULTIPLE MYELOMA – a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell.
This disease causes cancer cells to accumulate in the bone marrow where they can eventually overcrowd healthy blood cells. I told the Zambian Cancer Society that upon hearing my diagnosis my world stood still for a very long time. I knew that I was on a tough and lengthy journey. As a pharmacist in training, I had witnessed many times the difficulties a lot of cancer patients go through during cancer treatment. I silently vowed to myself to soldier on and fight the cancer. I learnt soon enough that this would be easier said than done.
CANCER TREATMENT AND ITS CHALLENGES
One treatment I had was chemotherapy which I started on 29th November 2018. It is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells. It came with a lot of challenges! I began to lose weight. My eyesight also became blurry. I started having difficulties to see or move on my own. Unfortunately, the treatment caused me to become completely blind in my left eye. This was because my retina detached. In a desperate attempt to save my right eye I had an operation which was successful. Chemotherapy had a lot of negative effects on my body, but nothing was worse than losing my vision in one eye. At this point, I needed a lot of help because I could not do a lot of things on my own. Many people stayed by my side but the support I received from my elder sister Idah Phiri and my girlfriend Grace Nyirenda was far beyond measure. Grace had an option of leaving me for other guys who were physically fine, but she chose to stay by my side. It was at this point that I knew angels exist. Grace’s love gave me the strength to stay strong. Her love was the best treatment of all!
The Cancer Diseases Hospital did not have all the drugs I needed. However, I could order them from India at a total cost of K40,000. The problem was I did not have the money and I was desperate. But as the saying goes ‘everything works in favour for those that love the Lord’. My Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) church helped me raise the funds to purchase the drugs. Thank you to all the SDA members who came forth to help. In the meantime, whilst my exams were getting closer and closer, I was becoming weaker and weaker. I finally accepted that I had no option but to withdraw from the university. It really hurt me to see pictures of my friends graduating. I was depressed for a long time. To help lift my mood during my time in hospital, I listened to a lot of motivational speakers on the internet and I read books. I also got a lot of inspiration from Simone Smith – the wife to American rapper LL Cool J. She is a survivor of Chondrosarcoma, a rare type of cancer that usually starts in the bones but can sometimes occur in the soft tissue near bones.
VICTOR IS VICTORIOUS
‘The mind is a battlefield. If you cannot accept what you are going through, you can never win.’ After many months cancer lost its hold on me. In 2019 I was told that the cancer was no longer detectable in my body and there were no symptoms of the disease! I had beaten It! Eagerly I returned to university, super elated that at long last I would complete my studies. I wrote my final exams and graduated in 2020 with a credit – 85% being my lowest grade.
Throughout my treatment, I realized how important the role a caregiver plays in one’s treatment journey. I really appreciate the love my girlfriend showed me when I needed her the most. As you can see from the pictures below, she was always there during my treatment. “Grace, as we celebrate another Valentine’s together, I want you to know that I LOVE YOU and I wish us nothing but happiness”.
To the readers I say, “If you know anyone going through a tough time, please be there for them as it contributes to their healing. Thank you Zambian Cancer Society, for giving me this opportunity to tell my story”. HAPPY VALENTINE’S WEEK!
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