prostate cancer, Jerry Okungu and frank zappa-deja vu all over again…and again and again and again…what is the answer?

no one can drive you crazy ... unless you give them the keys

Otis Brawley: I have never had a PSA and do not desire one. I have had relatives with the disease. I just do not believe it saves that many lives. SEER data show that a large proportion of so called early detected patients with pathologically localized disease (the best prognosis one can have) ultimately relapse by PSA. This means they really had distant disease at diagnosis. 

Did Mr. Okungu unwittingly heed Mr. Brawley’s advice? And to what conclusion?

Now really…the person below is a friend of the minister of medical services and was aware that his friend had prostate cancer in December of 2010. That was about six months ago. Now, with the stage of his disease being what sounds like metastatic prostate cancer, doing something six months ago would have been better, but he has probably had prostate cancer for years. It how now only become, “clinically apparent.”

Why did this fellow  not heed the experience of his friend and be examined six months ago? Why had he not had a physical exam by his doctor yearly that included a PSA and a rectal exam? Why does he applaud a national health care system in the face of having extensive prostate cancer? What is Kenya’s position on that “flawed policy of screening PSA’s?” that some in our country The American Cancer Society’s Brawley- feel is unnecessary. What exactly is the answer?

Really…how was it that this man, who obviously is of means and connected to friends in high places in Kenya somehow fell through the “prostate getting checked” crack and now has inoperable prostate cancer?

The sad thing is that it happens every day, and it’s always a surprise and we always hear that ” I had no symptoms,” and that the doctor’s were not “diligent.” Where were Mr. Okungu’s family members in making sure he was evaluated for prostate cancer years ago? What is Kenya doing to be “proactive” on prostate cancer? Why was no one “diligent” in this case?

The answer…I have it….It’s awareness. It’s awareness stupid. It starts with awareness and even though Mr. Okungu was aware of his friend with prostate cancer, that did not translate in his being aware for himself. A disconnect of sorts would not agree?  And as the guy that got caught robbing banks in the 1920’s, Sutton said when asked, “Why do you rob banks Mr. Sutton?”

“Because, that is where the money is.”  In prostate cancer….awareness is the new plastic.  Plastics, Plastics, Plastics…i.e. “The Graduate.”

I have prostate cancer, the diagnosis shocked me out of my depth Publication date: Thursday, 12th May, 2011 By Jerry Okungu

WHEN in December 2010 Kenya’s minister for medical services Prof Peter Anyang Nyongo’ stunned friends and relatives across the globe that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, it was a revelation to behold in a country where political leaders are always reluctant to reveal the state of their health. What I did not know was that at the same hospital in Nairobi, I would be diagnosed with the same disease, only that mine would be more advanced than that of my professor friend. Wednesday last week was no ordinary day for me although I had been ailing for the past seven to eight weeks. It was the day fate took me to the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi to seek a second opinion from a specialist on my persistent indigestion that had worsened with time though in retrospect, the signs were all there to see as early as October 2010 when I started losing my appetite, weight and desire to go to the gym. On being asked to lie on her table, one squeeze on my loins made her realise instantly that I could be having a more serious problem than I thought. She immediately ordered that I go for a CT-SCAN at the nearby M P Shah Hospital because in her opinion, the hospital had the best facility in the city. Two days later, the story was out. I had advanced prostate cancer that had spread beyond the confines of the glands. Within one hour of receiving the information I had to be rushed to a urologist who ordered a PSA test to be carried out to confirm a few details of the extent. Two hours later, I was back in my house contacting my family locally and abroad to break the news to them. It was the most harrowing moment in our lives. We did not at first know how to handle it because in our family, we had never gone through this experience except for our last born sister who lost her husband to cancer 15 years ago. By Friday 11:00 pm, Professor Nyongo and his wife Dorothy arrived at my house having been informed by my brother-in-law Peter Odoyo. Having gone through the same experience just a few months before, they gave me the first therapy. They urged me to be positive, go through all the tests and let the specialists take over. What was annoying in this episode was the fact that the two doctors I had consulted earlier had failed to recognise the obvious physical signs of mass formed around my rectum. For this reason, I lost nearly three months of precious time I could have used to start the fight. As I write this article, I am lying in my hospital bed at M P Shah Hospital for the initial management process. I have gone through ultra sound examination, bioscopy, MRI and bone scanning, all intended to confirm the extent of the spread. On admission to a hospital with cancer, I have learnt the value of relatives and caring friends. My niece Julie Aura who was with me when the news was being broken remained calm, even calmer than me despite her tender age of 23. My nephews Moses Aluodo and Barry Odhuno whose father died of rare cancer 15 years ago took time off and got me admitted as quickly as possible. Friends and their friends started pouring in. When it was realised that I was anaemic due to low blood count and the hospital needed donors of my blood group, volunteers started pouring in. It was really a humbling experience. Now that I have done the tests; I must start the hard road to do my battle that may go beyond the borders should my doctors advise whichever way because according to them, my condition will probably require a three-pronged approach—hormonal injections, radiology and chemotherapy and a combination of expertise of diverse backgrounds. Because this disease comes like a thief in the night; it has taught me one thing— we need regular medical examinations if for nothing else but to know our status. Another thing; not all doctors are the same and diligent. Some are; others are not. Those who are reckless can cost you dearly in the long-run. For the days that I will remain in this hospital I will keep you updated on the treatment regime that my doctors will have put together and update you on my progress.

 Now I value Professor Nyongo’s campaign for comprehensive healthcare insurance for all with state-of-the-art medical facilities in the country. Yes, according to my doctor, 84 new cases are reported in Kenya daily with thousands more that go unnoticed!

2 Replies to “prostate cancer, Jerry Okungu and frank zappa-deja vu all over again…and again and again and again…what is the answer?”

  1. A world wide problem? I guess this is exactly what it is and until proactive examination; the dreaded DRE; and screening Prostate cancer will and does kill if not caught early.
    It is sad to think that because there is a heated debate going on as to the value of the PSA test many men are using this as an excuse not to have one done on a regular basis.
    Gentlemen until something better comes up please get a regular DRE and PSA done and stay alive for those who need and love you.


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