My unborn child gave me the courage to fight cancer

By , People Daily Digital
Wednesday, October 27th, 2021 00:00 | 4 mins read
Millicent Orwa and her newborn child. She continued with cancer treatment during her pregnancy and after giving birth. Photo/PD/COURTESY

Millicent Orwa discovered she was three months pregnant when she was due to begin her sixth round of chemotherapy treatment and was advised to terminate it. The single mother, however, shares how she found new purpose to fight for her life.

According to the Kenyan Constitution, termination of pregnancy is permissible only when the life of the mother is medically proven to be in danger by in the opinion of a health professional.

But sometimes, a mother’s love makes it overly hard to choose her own life over that if her unborn child.

That’s why 31-year-old breast cancer survivor, Millicent Orwa, was at crossroads when she found out she was three months pregnant as she was due to begin her sixth chemotherapy session. 

Millicent was diagnosed with breast cancer Stage Three on August 2018 and had to begin her treatment at once.

“I had noticed a lump on my left breast and after a month, I realised that it wasn’t disappearing.

That’s when I went to hospital. It was a tough moment for me because even as I went to the hospital and explained about the lump, I had no idea at all that it could be cancer.

So, I was so shocked that it took me some time to come to terms with it. There were a lot of tests to be done before commencing the treatment, which already drained me to an extent of putting me into debts.

When news reached my family and friends, they advised me to begin treatment as they focused on fundraising,” shares the mother of one.

Hoping for the best

With the goodwill from family and friends, raising the money to fund her treatment was a burden lifted off her shoulders and she went through with five chemotherapy sessions successfully.

She was due for the sixth chemo when she realised that she was three months pregnant.

Millicent. Cancer took away the things I loved the most in my body, my breast and hair.

Chemotherapy posed a threat to the life of the unborn child, but to the medics, her recovery was more important.

So she was advised to terminate the pregnancy so as to continue with the chemo. But she would hear none of it.

“Yes, my baby was in great danger. In fact, the doctor would tell me, “See what chemo has done to you.

Now imagine what it has done to the unborn baby” this changed my view of life.

I had given up and surrendered that even if I died, it would be ok, but when I found out that I was pregnant, everything changed and I had a reason to live.

I refused to terminate the pregnancy considering that I had no child and neither was I married.

I kept my faith and prayed that nothing would happen to my baby. I underwent a mastectomy, where my whole breast was removed.

Then I did three more chemotherapy sessions. But I had to deliver the baby prematurely on August 2,2019, since the chemo drugs were triggering labour. I had a caesarian section at seven months.

After delivery, I underwent three more chemos.Unfortunlately, I was unable to continue with the chemo, so my doctor advised that I go for radiotherapy.

I had 30 sessions after which I was put on hormonal therapy treatment for a period of 10 years.

Some tests were run on her upon birth and everything was okay. Two years later, my baby is healthy and strong,” shares the social worker.

There are challenges that came with battling cancer and being a first time mother.

Giving birth at seven months and the baby not breastfeeding at all was so stressful for her.

Not to mention nursing the mastectomy wound, caesarian section wound and three months later nursing radiotherapy wounds.

But thanks to God, Millicent was able to pull through. Her father, who was so affected by the travails I was going through gave her the zeal to fight harder.

Her best friend Nicky Ayoma walked with her in her treatment journey taking her to all the appointments. She is grateful to her cousin who moved in with her to nurse her.

Her friends, the church from Kwale and family members became her support system and this as she shares, made the journey easier.

 Lonely single life

 Despite being out of danger, the cancer battle completely changed her life. Apart from the scars cancer left behind, her self-esteem has never been the same.

 “Cancer took away the things I loved the most in my body — my breast and hair.

To date, I haven’t had the courage of going to a salon to make my hair because it brings me the feeling I felt the day my beautiful long hair fell off. Having one breast has made brought me loneliness.

Whenever men learn about this… they walk away quietly. Some feel too much pity for me that they feel like its unfair getting into a relationship with me.

They forget that we need to feel loved and appreciated like every other woman.

Even while looking for a job, should they know you have cancer, it becomes another story,” she intimates.

Even so, this journey has taught her important life lessons — trusting in God being the most important thing, and keeping a positive perspective on everything that happens in life.

And it is her hope that her story will encourage others walking the same path she walked.

“Everything happens for a reason and a positive mindset can make you get out of your sick bed.

It is also important to relate well with other good to others and always forgive for you do not know who will come to your rescue in future. Finally, never give up.

Follow your doctor’s advice, make friends with other patients because sharing your life experiences often encourages each other and aids in one’s healing,” says Millicent.