From the moment we stepped into Jose´s home we were made to feel incredibly welcomed. He was the first MEDLIFE patient I met and that hour we spent in his home is one I won’t soon forget. We met JosÃ©’s wife, father and 6-month-old son who played happily in his small crib. Then just before starting the interview his older son came bursting through the door offering hugs to all of us there from MEDLIFE. Before even starting the interview, it was clear that the help MEDLIFE had provided to this family had meant a lot to them- the son was young but through his loving hugs seemed so grateful for, and appreciative of, MEDLIFE´s presence.
His wife sat away, holding and playing with the baby, listening but staying silent, you could see sadness in her eyes as Jose relayed his story. As we asked Jose our questions on his story with MEDLIFE he gave us in-depth answers and finished each one with just how thankful he was for MEDLIFE´s support.
Having always lived in the hills, where the shanty towns are built as far as the eye can see, Jose has been trying to build a life for his family and earn an income as a taxi driver. His family were depending on his income, which is why the news that he was suffering from cancer was particularly devastating and concerning for them.
After experiencing increasing pain in his hip for 6 months, Jose decided he had to get it checked out at the hospital. It was then, in May 2013, that he found out he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma disease. As Jose´s wife had previously been a patient at MEDLIFE they hoped they would once again be able to seek help, otherwise unsure of how they would be able to cope financially.
After hearing Jose´s situation, MEDLIFE recognised the impossible situation Jose and his family were now in, they then took the steps to support Jose as much as possible. The first way in which MEDLIFE could help was to contribute funds for the oncology injection for chemotherapy. The injections were a crucial part to Jose´s recovery, which he otherwise would simply not have had the money for, particularly now as the disease meant he was unable to continue his work as a taxi driver. He told us “In the most difficult moment of my life MEDLIFE came to support me, and they really helped me through my recovery. “
The increasing pain meant that soon, Jose was unable to walk. One month after diagnosis, he was in desperate need of a wheelchair. Jose explained how he was so pleasantly surprised when team MEDLIFE turned up at his house in June, with all his treatments and a wheelchair.
Gradually, with treatment, Jose´s condition began to improve. Now he is able to move with crutches and no longer needs the wheelchair. He had been so worried that being confined to a wheelchair would prevent him from being independent again, so being able to once again do things for him-self was something he was particularly proud of.
The room fell particularly still and silent as he took a moment to think before he explained his hopes for the future, tears rolled down his cheeks. The future seemed to be something he hadn’t perhaps planned for in his darkest days of illness, but was now again able to envision. Currently he is continuing with his treatment. He explained to us that his future hopes were: “to be able to finish constructing my house that we are building on a piece of land. This land has been abandoned since 2012, and while I have been recovering from my disease I have been living in my parents home. I wanted to finish building it at least with plywood; otherwise we will lose the land.”
Jose´s advice for others in the same situation was simple and exemplified the positivity and determination he has demonstrated throughout his treatment. He said “If you want to get somewhere, just go for it, and if you fall, don’t give up on your desire to live, and your faith.”
He explained how now people are often so surprised to see his progress and recovery because they previously saw him in so much pain, which he described as ‘horrible’.
After some time receiving his medication, concern was again raised when Jose was told he needed to go to physiotherapy rehab. The doctors thought there was another problem causing the bones of his hip to hurt. However, once beginning rehab, the situation quickly improved and soon Jose realised the pain that he had been experiencing had gone, he explained with a smile spreading across his face, beaming with relief, he was finally getting better. It had been an awful 6 months for the family, during which at times they had nothing to eat and relied on donations of friends and even the doctor for, in order to survive. When reflecting on that time Jose seemed so sincerely full of gratitude when stating “I will never forget their faces, I think with a lot of faith and desire anything is possible, treatment was causing me to get the chills but with the support of everyone I was able to carry on and get through it.”
Though Jose’s condition is improving, MEDLIFE continues to follow up with him, ensuring his recovery stays on track. The following final comment from Jose made me extremely proud to be a new member of the MEDLIFE team; the importance of their work was so vital to Jose’s journey to recovery.
“I am now walking slowly and by myself, and this is all thanks to all the people and to you, MEDLIFE for the wheelchair. Today I continue to have examinations and new treatment. I thank Ruth (MEDLIFE follow- up coordinator and field nurse) for all her continuous help and support.”