Survivor Story: Sidney ChahonyoDecember 3rd, 2021
Cancer is a devastating disease that requires a fighting spirit, determination and unwavering hope to endure its physical and psychological impacts. In recognition of London Global Cancer Week, the Commonwealth gave young cancer survivors across the Commonwealth a chance to tell their stories and challenge myths and stigmas surrounding the disease. Adedoyin Ajayi, a 25-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent from Nigeria shares the story of Sidney Chahonyo, a cancer survivor who participated in London Global Cancer Week: Commonwealth events.
Sidney Chahonyo had just completed his ‘A’ levels and was on the verge of entering university when he began experiencing occasional headaches, nosebleeds and bouts of flu. When they increased in intensity and occurred with a higher frequency, he was forced to seek medical help. Several wrong diagnoses of sinus infections from both private and public hospitals over a six-month period led him to an ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist. Finally, he was diagnosed with cancer of the post-nasal space, a rare type of cancer that affects the nasal cavity and sinuses. The 19-year-old Kenyan had not only faced a challenge of wrong diagnosis common to African cancer patients, but the revelation brought his life to a grinding halt.
The battle with cancer involves not just bodily adjustments, but an entire lifestyle transformation. It is as much physical as it is mental. “Everything stopped,” Sidney says, acknowledging the change he had to go through.
Although he was outgoing, his social life plummeted as he faced isolation. In his words, “Only 10% of my friends came around.” To worsen the situation, he faced rumours about his impending death. Being written off for dead is a stigma many cancer patients face.
Looking back, he says it’s important not to fall into self-pity. At the same time, he advocates for more psychosocial support for cancer patients to help them deal with the long-term effects of the illness and the significant changes in daily life, school or work that may occur as a result.
Following proper diagnosis, Sidney had five rounds each of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. There was no trace of cancer left. Fortunately, he was able to afford the cost of treatment. For many cancer patients not just in Kenya, but across Africa, this is a huge problem. Many of them struggle to afford the cost of and access to treatment. Sidney believes there should be universal health coverage so that cancer patients access the health services they need and do not have to sell their land and possibly borrow to cover the costs of treatment. Universal health coverage would also reduce what’s called – treatment abandonment, which is the tendency of patients to stop treatment halfway due to financial constraints.
Sidney survived his battle with cancer and yet did not come out fully unscathed. He now uses a hearing aid, as the treatment partially affected his hearing. Still, he believes one thing that kept him going was a resolute attitude and a positive mindset. His family also rallied around him and tried to help. For a 19-year-old with the world at his feet, he certainly faced a huge obstacle with cancer, but he stayed strong. He believes cancer is beatable and early detection is important. This is certainly an area that needs massive improvement across Africa, as many fail to detect cancer early and there is a high probability of improper diagnosis, similar to what he faced.
“No one really understands,” Sidney says of his battle. In spite of the support he received from his family, he says in some ways, cancer patients have to face the battle alone, and hence, a determination to pull through is needed. Sidney was afflicted with cancer of the post-nasal space, a rare type of cancer more common in older men than teenagers, but he beat the odds.
Today, he lives to tell the tale, proudly bearing his scars which he uses to encourage others struggling with different types of cancer. Cancer stole part of his life but also gave him a renewed sense of positivity and purpose. Today, he chairs the board of Hope for Cancer Kids, an initiative that raises funds to assist children from less advantaged backgrounds who suffer from cancer.
Photo Credits: Hope for Cancer Kids
About Adedoyin Ajayi: I am a graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria where i studied Economics. I like reading and writing on issues pertaining to developing countries. I have published two academic papers on tourism and its interrelated factors in MINT countries (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey). I currently work as a research assistant in my alma matter and hope to pursue a masters degree in Development Economics.