MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai says being diagnosed with cancer of the colon came as a shock to him and his family who believed his days were numbered, but he has learnt to take the disease in his stride.
Opening up to the Zimbabwe Independent about his battle, Tsvangirai said he was recovering well and hopeful to attain full recovery.
Tsvangirai revealed he had cancer of the colon in June after failing to attend demonstrations by his party in Mutare and Bulawayo, despite leading an earlier demonstration in Harare.
Tsvangirai said: “I was shocked, because I didn’t feel anything. I was not aware of this condition. In fact, I was busy active with political programmes until my wife (Elizabeth Macheka) said you have to stop because you don’t look healthy. That is when I went for this diagnosis, only to find the extent of the tumour in the colon. You start off by shock and then you take it in strides, you go through the treatment, you go through the operation.
“I was diagnosed with cancer on May 17. I went to visit my doctor for a number of health checks. He is the one who said I need to be tested out of his own diagnosis and when I was then checked they diagnosed that I had a tumour in my colon. That is the cancer,” he said.
“I did not believe it at first and when I went to South Africa; the doctor expressed the fact that we needed to operate and I was operated on, removing part of the tumour. They suggested that I should go on a programme of chemotherapy which has been administered to me for the last four sessions. I have been responding very well to treatment as you can see. I have said that whatever it is I will go through and I will confront it without any fear”
Tsvangirai said the most painful and difficult part of his cancer experience was breaking the news to his family who took it as if he had pronounced his death.
One of the things that happen with diagnosis of cancer is first the shock is almost like inevitable death. People conclude that because it’s cancer therefore it’s death. That’s the reaction from my wife, my family members, my daughters, my children and everyone. They see the inevitable death. Fortunately for me, I took it calmly. It’s probably the stage that one has to accept the status without panicking,” said Tsvangirai.
The former prime minister said although there has been steady progress, especially with the tests and the benchmarks on various tests having shown significant progress in addressing the cancer, the process was very expensive.
“I don’t know how many chemotherapy sessions are left, it’s up to the oncologist to determine what needs to be done next. In the next session I am supposed to go through a scan to establish the extent of the cancer cells and also to do blood tests and all those other tests. But it is an expensive exercise, that is where I think that for other Zimbabweans it’s something that is a sure sign of a death sentence if you don’t get the help that is necessary and that is timely. It’s something that the state should definitely set as a priority,” he said, refusing to disclose how much he has spent so far on the treatment and the names of those who have chipped in to pay his bills.
Tsvangirai said he was now on a strict diet which includes millet porridge, vegetables and various unprocessed foods.
“There are certain things you can’t touch and certain things you do eat. But I have a very strict diet. I eat millet porridge, some real roughage mugaiwa (unrefined mealie-meal) and I also eat a lot of vegetables, they say it helps,” he said, adding he has braved the ordeal because he is a strongly-spirited person.
Tsvangirai, however, said he would continue being active politically despite his cancer battle.
“I have been diagnosed for this (cancer) and I have made this public. It’s not a death sentence; I am recovering and I am hoping that when I fully recover I will be in a position to carry out my work at a much more intense basis,” he said.
“As we go into 2017, we all have to be in a good health because the intensity of work will increase. I am here and I have not announced a vacancy. I merely announced a diagnosis of my condition.”