Reflect and learn meeting

Reflect and learn meeting
Group photo after the reflection meeting

Cancer Patients in Mende subcounty Thriving: Reflect and learn meeting

On 16th January 2024, UWOCASO held a reflection and learning meeting at Buwaya Hope Project demonstration office under the VOICE supported project entitled “Mentally cancer Free and Thriving” in Mende sub-county Wakiso district.  The meeting aimed at assessing the progress of innovations and learnings throughout during the implemented period as well as getting feedback from the consortium partners, stake holders and rightsholders within the district. It is worth noting that, the meeting was very engaging as many people graced it with much appreciation, that is; the health workers, community champions, VHTs, district leaders and rightsholders who are the primary beneficiaries.  On the same note, participants showed a warm gratitude to the consortium partners implementing the project because of its impact to the community of Mende subcounty, individuals and families.  It was noted that, this project has restored hope and confidence among our rightsholders and awakened the community members to seek for cancer services however the services are still limited in the public health centers. That is; “since I joined this project, it has been helpful to me and restored my confidence and also living healthy life as well as following the doctor’s advices as per our counselor’s encouragement, I have been supported emotionally”. a rightsholder. Many rightsholders have come out to disclose that they have cancer or cancer survivors within the community which indicated that they are learning to accept their status as cancer patients hence improvement in mental wellbeing among cancer patients and survivors. For example; “most cancer patients were fearing to come out and disclose their status, but now they come openly looking for help.” A community champion narrates.  “Before this project, I didn’t know what is next, it was a dilemma for me, this project has helped me, I am going to start radiation and feeling strong”.   a rightsholder.

“Difficult roads can lead to beautiful Destinations”. Kia Wynn. “There is always hope beyond what you see.” Cora Connor. “It’s possible not just to survive but to thrive and live healthy, wonderful life again.” Erika Evans.  “Life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we react to it”. Leslie Medley- Russell.

“Let’s thrive”

The In charge Bulondo HCIII commented that, giving emotional support to cancer patients was a very thoughtful idea because they are few people in our communities taking care of cancer patients and yet cancer services are inadequate in the country, a lot is needed to be done in a country. Many cancer patients die because of depression and stress because they don’t know what to do after diagnosis yet caretakers worry most as they sympathize with them too much showing that the patient is going to die.  For example; a rightsholder shared that, “At the beginning of the project I was bedridden, I never thought that I will make it, everyone besides me was crying I was going through a lot and had lost hope, but now I see a big change in myself, I walk and attend meetings, I really feel comfortable and in good position to sit in public.”

A VHT informed the participants that, before the project, she thought there is no cancer patients in Mende communities, people were stigmatized about the disease and no one wanted to talk or hear about the word cancer. “I visited a cancer patient at the beginning of the project, she was very bitter and told me she wasn’t sick and she was ok but sadness was all over her face, currently she is very appreciative and calls me to give updates and also directing others to me to get cancer information.”  A VHT stated.

Once a person gets cancer, he/she starts feeling inferior, get distracted, hide from the public even their close relatives and friends, they think its witchcraft and try traditional healers and herbalists, some even start blaming themselves maybe they don’t serve the Lord right. In this case, cancer patients get discouraged by rumors from their communities to go for recommended medical cancer services thinking that they will die from there. For example; I have a relative who is a cancer patient and has been hiding from the family and friends, I got to know that its cancer during these meetings after getting the information about cancer, we supported her and now she is recovering. A health worker narrates.

Project manager during the discussion

It was noted that, the project has yielded results to Mende community, people are seen seeking for cancer services, like cancer screening however, after one is screened positive for HPV virus, or identified with breast health problems, they are not helped where they are referred due inadequate cancer services in the district. Cancer has not been prioritized hence increase in cancer deaths.  This calls for joint efforts as stakeholders to advocate for prioritization of cancer services in the country because it has been neglected. 

Thriving After Cancer, Together, We can Reduce The Burden

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