Growing up at Section 58 in Nakuru, Dr Wanda Dulcie always wanted to be a doctor.
She was so passionate about health care that the principal at her former primary school made her oversee the school’s First Aid Club.
Back home and in the estate, she reveals, her peers would call her Dr Kadogoo owing to her tiny stature, then.
After her high school education, she did a higher diploma in Counseling Psychology before she went forth to pursue Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery at Egerton University.
Upon graduating in 2014, she interned at Litein Mission Hospital and was a year later posted to Nakuru PGH Annex Hospital.
In May 2018, an Oncology Centre was opened at the Nakuru Level 5 Hospital and she successfully applied for a transfer.
“I felt my services were more needed there as a counsellor and medic. A cancer diagnosis can, and often does, affect a patient’s mental health,” she states.
It was a new start at the Oncology Centre as she only found one oncology nurse and the facility had only carried out a single chemotherapy session.
She says that Dr Gladwell Kiarie, a consulting physician and medical oncologist, came by and walked the team through the standard cancer treatment requirements.
Dr Kiarie visits the hospital every Thursday to attend to cancer patients.
“Word went around that the Nakuru Level 5 Hospital had opened a cancer centre and people started streaming in from as far as Samburu, Narok and other neighbouring counties,” she says.
The high numbers would not move her but the agony the clients had undergone, even after treatment elsewhere, especially those who had had mastectomy and colostomy.
She would reach out to organisations such as Breast Cancer Kenya, Radiotherapy Centre and others for prosthetic breasts, wigs and stoma bags.
“The Office of the First Lady Her Excellence Ms Elizabeth Kinyanjui and the 47 governors’ spouses caucus have also been of much help in one way or the other,” she reveals.
Her 15-month stay at the Oncology Centre has seen her attend to over 12, 000 patients.
But it is the case of a 28-year-old fourth year student at a local university that nearly broke her heart. She had a malignant melanoma on her foot that was treated and passed cancer-free some 10 years ago.
Dr Wanda says: “One day, she visited the Nakuru Level 5 Hospital with a chronic cough and judging by her past health records, further checkups revealed a metastasis melanoma.”
Unfortunately, the lady passed on months later.
She says there is a need for regular checkups even after being declared cancer-free.
“Secondary cancer hits back hard and if not caught early survival chances are limited as was the case with the lady,” she said.
At the Oncology Centre, it is seeing the positivity on life by the patients and the political goodwill for infrastructural and human resource development that keeps her moving.
She recalls Jocye Ibrahim, a 22-year-old former street boy, who was diagnosed with cancer in October last year.
Breaking the news to the patient was one of the hardest decisions to make in her practice at the Oncology Clinic. He also required timely treatment.
Dr Wanda had to approach the County Government of Nakuru and other stakeholders to ensure he underwent an urgent radiotherapy session at a private hospital in Nairobi.
“The outcome of this particular patient is a classic example that when cancer is fought early and with more expertise, it can be effortlessly won,” declares Dr Wanda.
Mr Ibrahim has since been absorbed as a clerical officer at the Oncology Centre on a contractual basis where he oversees data entry and NHIF scans for chemotherapy approvals.
“He often speaks to patients on his journey from diagnosis to treatment which serves as a huge motivation to patients,” she attests.
Dr Wanda started a support group where clients come together to share experiences and encourage each other emotionally.
It is such kind deeds and professionalism that saw Dr Wanda emerge the winner of the inaugural Overall Best Performing Health Worker of the Year, an award presented by Governor Lee Kinyanjui.
“I knew our department had worked hard to warrant an award but it never dawned on me that I would be named the overall winner,” she says.
Terminal cancer can be draining
She says attending to patients with terminal cancer can be draining emotionally and easily weigh down health workers and staff motivation cannot be overlooked.
The award, she says, is a motivation for all health workers in Nakuru County to work extra hard as there is contentment and reward in doing the best that one can.
“Be kind to your patients. Work hard and go over and beyond to ensure patients get what they deserve,” she advises other health workers in the county and Kenya at large.
The award came with a trophy, certificate, promotion and a two weeks trip to South Korea to learn on hospital management at a leading university.
Dr Wanda has enrolled for a Masters in Radiation Oncology, a move she says will go a long way in offering quality cancer treatment with the establishment of a Radiotherapy Centre at the Nakuru Level 5 Hospital.