TALES OF COURAGE: Back from hell – fighting a brain tumour

Tuesday May 23 2017

Margaret Abukutsa fought and won the battle

Margaret Abukutsa fought and won the battle against a brain tumor. PHOTO| COURTESY 

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Margaret Abukutsa’s health problems started in earnest with her breasts producing milk though she was not breastfeeding.

The 41-year-old had earlier been diagnosed with hormonal imbalance and was put on medication to control the “condition” that led to not just milk production but also incessant headaches, vomiting and breathlessness.

A doctor finally got to the root of her issues. She had a brain tumour.

“I knew this was going to be a long journey for me. There were two options for me: one was to undergo an operation, which was very delicate according to the neurosurgeon, and two, keep using the prescribed drugs with the hope of shrinking the tumour,” she says.

She chose the latter.

”I was on medication for close to three months but my health kept getting worse because of the side effects of the drugs.


“Miraculously, it happened that we had some visiting surgeons from Spain who had come to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret,” she recalls.

The determined Margaret tried in vain to schedule an appointment with the doctors.  

“I literally camped outside the theatre where the doctors were conducting their operations. At one point, when they were breaking for lunch, I sneaked in and handed my MRI films to the doctor in charge and on viewing them they recommended surgery.”.

“It was such a great relief to me, although with mixed feelings. I had fought very hard to get this help and if this would be my salvation then I had every right to die for it.”

She was booked for surgery the next day and underwent her first operation to remove the brain tumour in 2009.

But the ray of hope was dimmed in 2014, when she started displaying the same symptoms as before.

She started seeing medical consultants, right from endocrinologists and neurosurgeons to neurologists, to establish the cause of the pain and dysfunction in her body.

“I knew my condition needed extreme attention, since this time round the doctors from Spain were not there.”

But none of her doctors felt the same way.

One of the Moi Referral Hospital doctors advised her to seek further treatment in India.

The mother of two ‪went to Yashoda hospital in India.

Before then, she was under heavy medication, including cabergoline and other drugs, to manage her hormones levels.

“Anybody who has ever used these type of drugs will tell you the side effects that come with the use of the drugs is like hell.”

She responded so well to the treatment that she even surprised her doctors.

Her husband was her pillar of strength throughout her ordeal.

“He travelled with me as a caregiver and attendant, something I noted not all men could do. Most of the patients I met there from Africa were on their own. Few had their spouses attending to them.”

The quantity surveyor says she is happy to have bounced back to life and encourages people who have been through such an experience to be brave enough and fight any kind of stigma that comes with such condition.

Margaret says she draws her inspiration from Ron Kenoly’s song “If You Catch Hell” and summarises her message through the song’s lyrics:  “If you are going through hell don't stop! You go ahead, you go ahead.”

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