Tuesday September 2 2014

Cancer: Run for your life if the government is asleep

By Nicholas Sengoba

Two days ago, I was privileged to take part in the third annual Rotary Cancer Run that is organised by Rotarians with the help of several corporate bodies and individuals.

The proceeds will go towards completion of the 36-bed capacity Rotary Centenary Cancer Ward at St. Francis Hospital Nsambya in Kampala.

The ward will supplement the limited facilities in Uganda for the prevention and treatment of cancers.

There are many sides to charity events like this one. There is the fun associated with being part of large numbers of Ugandans from all walks of life.

Also the pain that comes with exercising bodies that are used to a largely sedentary lifestyle; sitting in front of computers and televisions, driving from place to place most of the day, etc.

Then on a more serious note, one gets to learn about health matters, especially regarding this deadly disease called cancer.

Medical experts tell us that the threat of cancer in Uganda and the developing world is on the increase due to change in lifestyle.

We consume more chemicals in fried and processed ‘modern’ foods, which are associated with the upscale sophisticated middle class. The greens and other cheap ‘bland’ foods that are good for our health are often ignored.

A lot of what we use from cigarettes, alcohol, lotions, utensils, gadgets like phones, building material like asbestos, clothing and other materials have been found to possess components that are potential carcinogens. Carcinogens are agents that are directly involved in causing cancer.

For Uganda, cervical cancer is the most common among women and prostate cancer among men. Health practitioners tell us that most times, these cancers are treatable if reported and detected early enough - before they spread and become malignant.

Sometime back on this page, we suggested that one of the ways ordinary Ugandans would save themselves from the threat of cancer was by forming clubs.

Then they would proceed to make small cash contributions into a pool for members to access in case they are struck by this deadly disease.

We live in a country where the government is run by people behaving like thieves who have fallen out.

Every now and then, there are accusations and counter accusations of one party or another being part of a mafia group bent on destroying someone who is accused of misusing public funds.

The stories we read about taxpayers’ money being wasted and stolen indicate that there are so many thieves in the system. These will serve as a hindrance to any attempt to build social amenities to deal with diseases like cancer.

That is why these efforts by Rotarians are commendable. They give an opportunity to ordinary people to learn about potential threats to their lives and do something practical about it by being directly involved.

We cannot wait for the type of government we have to help us. We shall die waiting and lamenting. We have to swallow the bitter pill that the people who lead us are not the legendary mother goose that fends for her young ones. Many of them are just unpatriotic, callous, mean-spirited and selfish.

We will have to take the example of the Rotarians and get more involved in organising ourselves outside of government, financially and by opening our minds to learning how to take better care of ourselves.

Cancer is a terrible killer and not so much is known about it. It will require mass participation to save ourselves from it. A communal approach like that initiated by Rotarians is one of the ways to go about it.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues. nicholassengoba@yahoo.com