My husband ran cancer tests for three years but doctors saw nothing

Sunday October 20 2019

Bereaved. Susan Ayebazibwe and her children.

Bereaved. Susan Ayebazibwe and her children. She lost her husband in February. PHOTO BY NICOLAS AKASULA  

By Nicolas Akasula

Prior to the actual diagnosis of Ronald Kintu’s cancer, Ayebazibwe and her husband presumed that the former was suffering from ulcers.
“He had suffered from stomach pains for three years, which prompted us to seek medical attention,” narrates Ayebazibwe.
The tests on him started in 2015 and went on for as long as three years. But the doctors at first saw nothing.
“He would always complain of sharp stomach pains, and they were nonstop,” she recounts.

The couple that had four children suffered immense trauma, which still continues. Kintu passed on in February.
“It was tough because he was also the major breadwinner. My small job as a nurse was only an addition,” she says.
The 38-year-old nurse notes that what strained them more was the fact that in their time of need, her then 43-year-old husband lost his job.
She says he was working as an accountant for an internet service provider at the time.

He reported for work in the first three months after his diagnosis, which was from June to August 2018. However, his condition deteriorated in September and he did not report for duty that entire month.
“After one month of not reporting to work, we were sent notice that his contract had been terminated,” she recounts.
Kintu spent four years in pain before he died. First were the three years when the stomach pains kicked in 2015, up until May 2018 when a scan was done on him and it revealed a tumour on the tail of his pancreas.
“At the [Kampala] Imaging Centre we were told they would do nothing, but recommended an operation on him,” she says.
So the couple made their way to International Hospital Kampala at the beginning of June 2018 and an operation was carried out on him to remove the tumour.

In addition, doctors at the hospital also suggested that they pick a biopsy from him because they suspected he was harbouring cancer.
And indeed he was found to be having cancer. Kintu started his dosage right away at the Uganda Cancer Institute.
The chemotherapy he underwent had six doses, requiring him to report to hospital every two weeks.
Ayebazibwe says they spent more than Shs60 million throughout his treatment, adding that perhaps an early diagnosis would have saved his life.

Kintu was on medication for eight months before passing on.
Ayebazibwe says things wouldn’t have been that bad had Kintu not lost his job. “That was the unfortunate bit. The fact that at his job he was taken care of by insurance lessened the burden. Meaning, we were able to foot the medical bills, courtesy of his job. But when he was terminated, we then had to devise other means of finding money to pay for the bills.”
Towards his death Kintu developed a sudden rage and was apparently bitter. “He grew arrogant and rude given he had lost hope,” she remembers, however, adding that he was mentally stable until the end.

Final days
Ayebazibwe says her husband’s family was supportive and there for them until the end.
She also discloses that although they took care of her husband, they didn’t have any hope of him recovering.
“We found out that the kind of cancer he had was one which, according to statistics, showed that no single person had ever survived from it. It became more troubling for us. And I guess this is the point when he too actually came to terms with the fact that he was going to die.”
This was the second tragedy to strike Kintu’s family in a few years. Ayebazibwe says her husband’s brother succumbed to skin cancer years earlier.


Ayebazibwe says she is struggling to raise her four children, one of whom is anaemic.
“We accepted that it had happened; that he is gone,” she concludes.

Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms

1) Your back or stomach hurts. Pain in the abdomen or mid-back may be caused by a tumour. Depending on its location, the tumour may be pushing against nerves or organs near the pancreas or blocking the digestive tract.

2) You’re bloated. Pancreatic cancer can cause digestive problems, which may cause gas and bloating. Pancreatic cancer can also cause ascites, the build-up of extra fluid in the abdomen.
3) You’re having trouble digesting food. Loss of appetite, indigestion and nausea are common in people with pancreatic cancer. These symptoms often happen when the disease affects a person’s ability to digest food and absorb nutrients.

4) You’re losing weight and you don’t know why. Weight loss can be caused by incomplete digestion due to the cancer or by the cancer itself. Cancer-induced weight loss is a problem that affects the way the body uses calories and protein.

5) Your skin and eyes look yellow. Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and eyes caused by the build-up of bilirubin, a component of bile.
6) Your stools are changing. Many pancreatic cancer patients have diarrhoea, constipation or both. Diarrhoea consisting of loose, watery, oily or foul-smelling stools can be caused by insufficient amounts of pancreatic enzymes in the intestines.
7) You were recently diagnosed with diabetes, or your well-controlled diabetes is changing.