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Daughter of former journalist who died of colon cancer battling cancer of the bones

This Thursday will mark exactly 10 years since journalist Elly Abong’o succumbed to colon cancer in Nairobi. He died just days after being featured in Daily Nation’s “Living” magazine, narrating his struggles with the disease.

His widow, Joyce Wambui, and daughter, Lakita Abong’o, will be marking the anniversary in India. Since January, they have been at the Medanta Hospital in New Delhi where the 13-year-old Lakita is being treated for cancer of the bones.

CELL TRANSPLANT

Her right leg was amputated at the hip in March and she is now awaiting a stem cell transplant to as medics seek to ensure that the cancer, called osteosarcoma in technical terms, is banished from her body.

Hers is a hereditary condition. Tests by medics on Lakita’s blood showed that she had inherited a syndrome that increases chances of a person contracting cancer.

“She tested positive for Li-Fraumeni syndrome. That one makes someone be more susceptible to different types of cancer. So, that can run in the family,” Ms Wambui told the Sunday Nation on Friday.

She explained that the death of Mr Abongo’s mother and two siblings might have been due to the predisposition to cancer, though it had not been established as such.

In Lakita’s case, the cancer began with pain in the leg, which they tried managing but it just couldn’t go away. Several scans later, it was discovered that she has osteosarcoma, which was manifesting itself as a tumour. The cancer forms in the cells that form bones.

LOSS OF LEG

One of the interventions done was to remove the affected part. In its place, a metallic blade was introduced to ensure the leg still supported the body.

But during the examination in January, it was discovered that the tumour was not responding to chemotherapy.

“They did a scan and found out that the chemo wasn’t working. When they analysed the site of the tumour, there was no other option but an amputation,” said Ms Wambui.

To place further stops on the cancer, which doctors have deemed “aggressive”, medics have recommended a stem cell transplant. This weekend, doctors have been harvesting cells from her body to be reconditioned and later returned to her body.

If all goes according to plan, the transplant is scheduled for May 18. But that depends on whether they will have raised the Sh4.9 million required for the procedure, an amount that the family is asking well-wishers to contribute.

LOSS OF DADDY

“If there is no money, they will continue with chemotherapy until we get money for a stem cell transplant,” said Ms Wambui.

Lakita, Standard Eight pupil at Juja Preparatory, said it has not been easy dealing with the loss of a leg.

“Sometimes I just feel like my leg is there, but it’s not. I reach out to touch it, but it’s not there,” she said.

She hopes all financial hurdles will be cleared soon so that she can return to Kenya by June.

“(I wish to) go back to my family and friends to resume school and sit my KCPE,” she said.

Her father died at 32, when she was three years old. He had worked for Family TV, Citizen TV, Radio Ramogi, BBC Radio among other media outlets by the time of his demise.

Well-wishers can donate through M-Pesa
Paybill Number 8011987, with the sender’s name as the account name.