I carried my son to Mulago in lockdown

Friday October 30 2020

Mr Richard Musisi, whose son is battling lyphoma cancer, at his office in Masaka last week. PHOTO/ WILSON KUTAMBA

By Wilson Kutamba

The ban on public and private transport in March as one of the measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus paralysed some healthcare operations. 
While people living with HIV/Aids would be referred to nearby facilities for refills, it was not possible for some cancer patients since they had to travel to Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) at Mulago hospital. 
Mr Richard Musisi, whose son is battling lymphoma cancer, says when government imposed a ban on transport, he was in Masaka District.
“My mind rushed to how my eight- year-old son would survive because he was in Kampala with his mother,” Mr Musisi, who is also the executive director Masaka Association of Disabled Persons Living with HIV/Aids, says. 
However, at that time, his wife was expecting and could no longer take their son to UCI. 
Mr Musisi had to find means to return to Kampala to take care of his wife and their son.
 “The mother later gave birth. I remained with the boy whom I used to carry on my shoulders from Kitezi to Mulago (UCI) in Kampala for a distance of about 10km three times a week,” he says.
The father of two says at the beginning, well-wishers in private cars came to his aid until all transport means were banned. 

Becomes weary
After one month, it was becoming hectic for Mr Musisi to carry his son to UCI. He pleaded with the doctors to admit him.
“The child was later admitted and one of my sisters started helping me to take care of him until government started easing the lockdown,” he says.
Mr Musisi says his son was well until March last year when doctors confirmed that he was suffering from cancer (lymphoma).

How it started
“While at school, his lymph nodes got swollen in the armpits, neck and other parts. However, he was not in pain but the swelling persisted which prompted us to take him [to Masaka hospital] for medical attention,” he says.
Mr Musisi says after about two months, his son developed a cough, prompting them to take the child back to Masaka hospital.
“One of doctors referred [my son] to an X-ray, which revealed sores in the chest. They later moved him to a TB (tuberculosis) ward, he was on TB medication for a month without change,” he recalls.
Mr Musisi’s uncle, a doctor at Mengo hospital, asked him to take the boy for cancer screening. 
The biopsy was done and after three days, Mr Musisi picked the results and gave them to his uncle.
“As a person who is dealing with people living with chronic diseases, the facial expression of my uncle after looking at the results communicated something not easy,” narrates Mr Musisi.
His uncle said the boy was suffering from cancer, and called a doctor at UCI to tell him about the results.
Mr Musisi says his hope came alive when the doctor at Mulago said the cancer was still in early stages and treatable. His son was referred to UCI and immediately started treatment.

Mr Musisi says as the treatment progressed, his son started shedding off his hair and his skin turned yellow.
Later, the swollen lymph nodes cleared but the patient’s stomach got swollen and he became extremely weak.
Mr Musisi says the high cost of treatment makes many lose hope in treating their loved ones.
He says an injection costs Shs150,000 and yet his son had to receive nine injections and other drugs.
Mr Musisi’s appeal is that there should be routine cancer screening to help detect cancer at an early stage.
He says with the support from UCI, doctors and adherence to the treatment, one can hardly tell that his son is battling cancer.

About Lymphoma cancer


According to the UCI website, lymphoma is cancer that begins in infection-fighting cells of the immune system, called lymphocytes. These cells are in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and other parts of the body.

When you have lymphoma, lymphocytes change and grow out of control.

Lymphoma cancer has two types that are Non-Hodgkin: Most people with lymphoma have this type and Hodgkin. Non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphoma involve different types of lymphocyte cells. Every type of lymphoma grows at a different rate and responds differently to treatment.  

Lymphoma is very treatable, and the outlook can vary depending on the type of lymphoma and its stage. Lymphoma is different from leukemia.

Each of these cancers starts in a different type of cell. Lymphoma starts in infection-fighting lymphocytes while Leukemia starts in blood-forming cells inside bone marrow.

Lymphoma is also not the same as lymphedema, which is a collection of fluid that forms in body tissues.