In 2011, she often had pain in her lower belly and bleeding after sex. When she sought medical care at Limbe Health Centre in Blantyre, without examining her, nurses concluded it was gorrnohoea.
They prescribed Fragil, Bruffen and Panado as her medication. Her condition worsened with each passing day. Then, she was referred to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (Qech) on June 18 2013 where a Pap Test diagnosed her with cervical cancer, stage Four A.
This is the story of a mother of three, Alinafe Matebule, 26, of group village head (GVH) Wisiki in Traditional Authority (T/A) Machinjiri in Blantyre.
Said Matebule: “I felt terrible pain in the lower belly and I bled a lot after sex. At Limbe Health Centre, I was told those were signs of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They said I had gorrnohoea. From 2011 to June 2013, the cancer developed from stage one to stage four. I was told the only option was to remove the cervix.”
Matebule narrated her story at the end of June 2013 during an awareness campaign organised by Cancer Survivor Quest at Mwaiwathu Private Hospital in Blantyre.
“Chikhumbiro Njombe of Cancer Survivor Quest took me there to share my story so as to encourage fellow women to go for cervical cancer screening [Pap Test]. People were touched with my story and I heard they raised over K2 million for my medication in South Africa or Zimbabwe,” said Matebule.
She said she went to Qech on November 21 2014 after her condition had worsen. She had a surgery on November 30 2014.
“Doctor [Frank] Taulo did the job. While at the hospital, the surgery wound on the belly started producing foul odour as it went three days without being dressed,” she recalled.
Although she was discharged on December 14, she was not well and, instead of going home, she went straight to St Joseph Mission Hospital [Nguludi] in Chiradzulu from where she was once again referred to Qech on December 25.
“Actually, I owe Nguludi Mission Hospital K7 000 for the period I was admitted there. On two occasions at Qech, when they took my blood samples for testing, the samples were misplaced and they had to take them again,” said Matebule.
She was discharged on March 8 2015 and Times TV interviewed her in an attempt to solicit funds for her medication.
“On the first day, a Cancer Survivor Quest official kept me up to 5pm waiting for the TV crew who never turned up. I finally got interviewed on March 15 here at home.
“I just heard that they beamed the interview later. I only hope that the initiative was fruitful. Otherwise, I need transport to go to Mwaiwathu to find out about the progress on my trip for specialised treatment. I need urgent medication,” she said.
Meanwhile, Matebule, whose cancer has spread to the stomach and rectum survives on pain-killers.
She has had no medication for four months now. Two tumours have since developed on the sides of the surgery wound on her belly.
The tumours release a lot of pus that forces her to change clothes frequently.
“My husband is a minibus tout and earns too little to feed the family and take me to the hospital at the same time,” she said.
Although she awaits specialised treatment, Matebule is worried about where blood to facilitate her surgery will come from as her relations have declared that they are tired of donating blood to her.
She says when she walks around her compound she feels unbearable pain from the tumours.
In all her agonies, Matebule depends on her eight-year-old son, Reuben—who is in Standard Three at Bangwe Catholic Primary School—for domestic work. He younger sons are Chris and Evison.
“I feel sorry for my son. It is too much for him, but there is nothing I can do since my relations no longer have interest to help me,” she said.
In between sobs, Matebule said all she needs is medicine to stop the pain and the growing tumours and, best of all, being cured of the disease.
“What I need now is treatment. I was already diagnosed with cancer at an advanced stage, but akuchedwa kundipasa thandizo pomwe ndalama ati zilipo, akufuna ndife azidye (They are delaying to take me to hospital, but I understand that money for my treatment is available. What are they waiting for?).
“I used to brew masese [local beer] from which I made money and helped my husband to support the family, I can no longer do that now,” she said amid sobs.
Matebule believes there are private hospitals elsewhere in the world that cure a disease like hers and she pleads with well-wishers to save her life.
Frank Matebule said his wife is in terrible pain.
“The tumours took away her joy. She complains of this and that all the time. A lot of money is required for her to get better. I believe God has a purpose with her life,” he said.
But all the same, Alinafe Matebule, urges fellow women to have Pap Test.
“Always find time to go for cervix cancer screening. You never know if it is developing. If it is, it has to be terminated at an early stage. Avoid what I am going through, it is painful,” she said.