FORMER president Rupiah Banda says cancer medication is very expensive and it is painful that the majority of ordinary citizens in his situation cannot access the necessary medical help they need.

In an interview with Kennedy Gondwe for his Studio Ken Youtube Channel, Banda said he was overwhelmed by the support he had received since he revealed his colon cancer diagnosis.

“After I announced that I had been diagnosed with cancer of the colon, life has been very hectic because they have responded overwhelmingly with sympathy, with me and my family. The question says that given that this is the third time we are dealing with cancer, yes it’s the third time. Yes it’s the third time it has directly affects me as Rupiah Banda. But we have had a lot of problems with cancer in my family, my father I lost my father to cancer of the throat,” Banda said.

“And many other members of the family, brothers, children. But my direct family, it’s been very difficult because I lost my first wife, Hope Mwansa Banda to cancer. We did everything we could we took her to America it didn’t work, she passed on. And then I re-married my young wife and then after we had twins she was diagnosed with cancer of the breast and so fortunately, looks like science has developed now and she survived. And she is on my right had side encouraging me that she did and I can do it too. Generally my family is very shaken by the situation, I’m the head of the family and also I have a bigger family Zambia.”

Banda said he was extremely optimistic that he would win the battle but that he was, however, at ease with death.

“When you hear the word cancer then the word death comes next and I have been thinking about that too. But even in my old age, I had been thinking about death. Because at the age of 83, many of my friends and age mates are gone. But I also say to myself that I think God loves me that’s why I also try to transmit this love to others, because 83 years is a long time and my health is generally good, it’s just this cancer which has been nagging and bothering me for the last few years I didn’t know what it was. But to tell you the truth I’m very optimistic that we will overcome. Yes, the treatment is very tough,” he said.

He described how aggressive cancer treatment was.

“I was diagnosed in the main hospital in Dubai where I went, with this cancer they would give me 12 chemotherapies. So what is happening now is that every two weeks, I have to go back to the hospital and get chemotherapy. On Wednesday, I got chemo, you can see my skin is all affected, turned black. So today on a Monday the doctors will come in and get my blood, then by a Tuesday the doctors will know the condition of my blood and on Wednesday at 08:00 I will go for my chemo. At the hospital, Dr Desai, where he is being supported by Doctors from UTH, the head of Oncology in Zambia Dr Banda, and other Doctors,” he said.

“I think three or four Doctors from the Ministry of Health plus nurses the three young Zambian nurses who have been trained here in Zambia and in South Africa in Pretoria and they all come to help. So I’m getting the best that the country can offer. It’s very advanced. Because we really didn’t know that I had cancer. Every six months the government sends me overseas for medical treatment. So, before the Coronavirus, they discovered something funny in my internal organs and later they discovered it was colon cancer. And when you get news like that you become scared.”

And Banda said he was aware that he was receiving special treatment which was not available to ordinary citizens.

“And then I realise that this is special, it’s just for me that why it’s so painful because if I can suffer like this, what about the other ordinary people? So that’s what happens, and during the day of chemo, it’s quite traumatic because you have needles all over and you go through various chemo, the main one is 46 hours which I carry over my neck and stay with it on my body. But I get other chemo during that period maybe from 5am to 9 o’clock in the evening. And you become very nauseas but they give you medicine to help and then by 5 o’clock in the evening, I get a big chemo and they release me to come home with it on my body and it drops for 46 hours. So during that time, it’s very difficult. And from Wednesday, they come and take it off on Saturday and then I’m very weak after that, I can’t walk and can’t eat,” Banda said.

“Right now I’m feeling much better, I feel like I’m on top of the world but I know that in two days time, I will be knocked down. It’s painful but you have to go through it if there is any chance of survival. Mine was actually fourth stage when they discovered it.”

Banda lamented that cancer treatment was very expensive and not everyone could afford it.

“…the first decision we made when I became President was to set up a cancer centre. But you know, it’s one thing to set up a cancer centre and its another to have adequate medication, the necessary equipment. That is the biggest problem, cancer requires a lot of medication, very expensive medication and that is where we are facing problems and with problems that most of our economies are facing in Africa and the outside world, because we get help from the outside world but right now they are facing their oown problems with the Covid-19,” said Banda.

“So it’s very difficult for the ordinary Zambians to get the help they need. Especially in the rural areas they don’t even have a little clinic, it’s very painful, the way I am feeling is the way every leader in Zambia should be feeling. It’s a very serious problem, this lack of medicines. And in cancer, it’s just one disease and by the way despite the fact that I am tired, and don’t take interviews anymore, but when you asked me to participate, I said I had to join Zambians who are fighting this disease. It’s a serious problem and we need help. And hoping that this Coronavirus thing will be over so that the world can go back to where it was before. But to answer the question I think we should make our own medicines here.”