I attended funerals and burials in the past month, of adults that had passed on following long illnesses caused by cancer.
SATURDAY DIALOGUE WITH ROPAFADZO MAPIMHIDZE
Most of them were men that had succumbed to prostate, bowel, or throat cancer.
Two women died of uterine cancer.
The word cancer really frightens me because it brings sad memories of my own father who died in 1984 after succumbing to prostate cancer.
He was to be followed by his two brothers who suffered similar fate and they are all rested at our village in Buhera.
I nursed my father single-handedly every time he came for treatments at the radiography section of Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare.
Sometimes I would have him for over a month and words fail to describe how I felt as my dad slowly became a bony skeletal figure.
He would wake up and scream in pain wanting me to give him more painkillers.
Doctors had prescribed morphine, a strong pain reliever that is used to treat moderate to severe pain.
This drug comes in different forms, such as short-acting liquids or tablets, and long-acting (sustained-release) tablets or capsules.
However, this high dosage drug failed to relieve him of the pain and it was so painful to see the once energetic and lively man reduced to someone who could hardly help himself to the bath or toilet.
I tried my best to ensure he was comfortable, but it was so difficult and sought help from the Cancer Centre in Harare. They referred me to staff at Island Hospice who visited my dad twice a day, gave him food, a chair-cum-toilet seat and a walking ring.
Whenever he wailed for more morphine, I would break down in tears. The excruciating pain that accompanies cancer is indescribable.
I would call for an ambulance, but most of the time, the rescue service would arrive when the pain had subsided.
Although he died almost 20 years ago, that picture still haunts me.
Prostate, breast and uterine cancer is manageable if detected early.
However, majority of the cases I have heard, patients come for treatment when the disease has spread to other internal organs like liver and intestines.
But I recently learnt that there are many herbs and various trees that have medicinal value to treat some of these ailments.
I came across a local university lecturer who is studying and researching for a PhD at some South Africa university, who said she had spent nearly six months in Chiweshe, Mashonaland Central, doing her thesis on traditional herbal medicines.
Some of the things she told me were very interesting as she said the earth has everything to cure the human race from any form of disease no matter how grave.
The lecturer said that the problem is that most religions condemn the use of herbs because they are deemed to devilish and yet there are people, who are not witchdoctors that are knowledgeable about herbs that cure all ailments.
Cancer, she said, is one condition which can be completely cured by herbs, without having to undergo radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
I did agree with her because I have a relative who was almost dying from uterine cancer just before my father passed on, who went to Mt Darwin where her older lives, where she visited a herbalist who administered herbs to cure that ailment.
The cancerous growths in the uterus gathered as one huge mass and flushed out like a tennis ball through her reproductive organ.
That is how her suffering ended.
The woman is still alive today and lives in Buhera where she conducts all domestic chores at her homestead just like every other woman in the area.
Doctors and other members of the family had concluded that nothing could be done about her condition, but it took courage by her sister who introduced her to some herbalist where she lived for a few months and survived.
The lecturer I mentioned said during her research, she also witnessed a young boy that had suffered severe burns from scalding.
He was admitted to a local hospital when his father sought permission to have him discharged. The man took him to some herbalist in Chiweshe, who administered some herbs consisting of crushed leaves on the burns.
The burns had completely healed within two weeks. This research is also recorded in both pictures and videos.
Such is the amazing knowledge that some people have out there that could complement Zimbabwe’s health delivery services.
But the problem is that we have been socialised into believing that herbs are synonymous with wizards, witchdoctors and evil.
The Chinese, Indians, Koreans and many other Asian people have maintained their traditional medicines which they administer in collaboration with modern medicine and successfully killed many life threatening conditions.
The result has been that most of these people live much longer than any other race in the world.
I have no doubt that there is a deliberate effort by pharmaceutical companies all over the world to discourage the human race from using “ancient medicine” which they describe as either dirty, old-fashioned or outdated.
But facts on the ground have revealed that there is so much information in the villages about diseases which unfortunately is not in written form.
These are practices passed from one generation to the other.
It is my sincere hope this lecturer will one day share what she learnt in Chiweshe with all of us and perhaps give recognition to our own herbalists.
“There is no ailment that does not have a cure. When God created the earth and all the trees, bushes and various plants were meant to be used to also heal our bodies when sick,” she said.
This is a message that came from this learned woman, a born-again Christian who now is an advocate for herbal traditional treatments.