Eliakim Kato, 70 is a retired teacher from Ntungamo District. In 1994, he was unable to urinate and was admitted at Nyakibale Hospital in Rukungiri District where he was treated.
“Unfortunately, the doctors did not tell me the cause of the blockage. I think because there was not enough information and awareness about cancer but I now know that it could have been one of the warning signs of prostate cancer,” he says.
In 2010, Kato started experiencing difficulty passing urine again.
“I would use a lot of energy to push the urine out. When the urine came out, it was blood stained. I also had pain around the groin area. These symptoms were worrying so I thought it wise to seek medical advice,” he recalls.
He went to a clinic where a digital rectal examination was done because the prostate gland extends up to the ladder and the results showed that the prostate was enlarged. He then needed proof, with a biopsy, if cancer was the reason for the enlarged prostate.
“After five days, I got the results. I had stage II cancer and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level was 58 compared to the normal level which is about 4.5.
I was then referred to Agha Khan Hospital for a bone scan. It cost me about Shs1m and it was found that the cancer had not yet spread to other parts of the body,” he says.
He was also suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure at the time, and he feared that his immune system would fail.
At the time, scientists based at National Forestry Resources Research Institute had revealed that a local tree called Prunus Africana could be used to cure cancer.
“I then went to Mukono where I got some pieces of the bark of the tree, dried and pounded them to make a powder. I was told to use a teaspoonful of the powder in 250ml of boiling water or millet porridge for three days,” he says.
After four months, the blood in the urine had cleared, the pain in the groin disappeared and when he went back to hospital for check-up, he tested his PSA level again and this time it was six.
“The doctor, however, told me to keep going for the conventional cancer treatment even if I felt much better when I used the herbs. In 2013, after several reviews and blood tests, I was started on hormonal therapy at the Uganda Cancer Institute,” Kato says.
The therapy was a monthly injection which was administered free of charge. He says there were times when the drug would run out of stock at the hospital and he would have to buy it from a pharmacy in Wandegeya at Shs500,000 a dose.
He continued using the Prunus Africana bark powder as a beverage and would go for monthly reviews. In 2017/2018, his PSA level was in the normal range so he would come to the cancer institute after every three months.
This continued for some time until June this year when he developed acute appendicitis and had to undergo surgery.
“Ever since I had the surgery, I have been going to the Cancer Institute monthly because my PSA level had risen a bit.
The risk factors
Kato lost an uncle to prostate cancer at the age of 45 years. Kato’s age, diabetes and hypertension all predispose him to increased risk of prostate cancer.
“I think it is in our family but since it is said to be one of the slowest cancer, and also because there was no pain, I became reluctant about getting tested and treated.”
Kato has an apiary of bees so he harvests honey, has 1,000 hens and Friesian cows from which he gets milk for sale. He insists he does not eat any of the products from his livestock.
“With prostate cancer, red meat and milk are a no go area because these are said to increase or even aggravate the situation so I do not eat them. The honey is also too sweet and since I am diabetic, I do not use the honey either,” he says.
He is careful about his diet which is basically vegetarian. He eats fruits, vegetables, cereals and legumes.
“My plate can have rice, potatoes, vegetables that I grow, beans and sometimes peas. I eat fruits like apples, mangoes, oranges, soursop and lemon. These help to keep my blood sugar checked,” he shares.
He also takes two glasses of hot water every morning, and breakfast 40 minutes later. He also eats garlic and exercises by walking and stretching every day.
“I want to advise people that it is not good to stick to herbs only for cancer treatment. They must seek medical advice from hospital and keep going for review depending on what the doctor says,” Kato advises.