Mauldine Makwata: My battle with stage four breast cancer

Mauldine Makwata

In this file photo, cancer survivor Mauldine Makwata.

Photo credit: Pool

On September 9, last year, Mauldine Makwata exchanged wedding vows with her husband of many years. For many, the phrase “in sickness and health” may be mere words uttered during a ceremony, but for this couple, it was a reality of their union.

Months to the occasion, Mauldine, now 34, had been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. A doctor’s report seen by Nation indicated that the disease had already spread to her spine, abdomen, and lungs.

“I remember the day we received the diagnosis as if it happened yesterday, yet it has been two years now. It was mostly a typical day — I saw patients [I’m a nursing officer] and did some office work. It was my partner’s call that broke that routine. He said my results were ready, and I jokingly asked him to text because I thought it was good news,” she says.

It is an early Wednesday afternoon when we arrive at Mauldine’s home, on the outskirts of Eldoret town. Dressed in a striking red suit, the 34-year-old takes us back to two years ago when she sat at the doctor’s office to receive her diagnosis.

“I remember laughing and tears rolling down my cheeks as I told the doctor that the diagnosis was not true,” she recalls. Nevertheless, the doctor outlined a regimen comprising chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy.

 Embarking on chemotherapy on August 2, 2022, Mauldine's battle took an unexpected turn when her breast cancer showed resistance, leading to an emergency surgery on September 8 that year.

“My daughter was turning three on that day and I said God is teaching me resilience. I remember I was singing happy birthday to her on video while on my hospital bed and she couldn’t understand why I was not home,” she says. She went on to complete eight cycles of chemotherapy and 30 sessions of radiotherapy.


“I had researched widely and knew what to expect but it was still a difficult experience to go through. The nausea and vomiting were really bad. I couldn’t eat and it made me weak. Chemotherapy is dreadful,” Mauldine re-lives those experiences.

By May 2023, she successfully finished her breast cancer treatment. At this point, she had regained her weight, her skin tone was back to normal, her hair had regrown and her appetite and physical strength had returned.

 “I was relieved, I was like finally I can go back to just being me. I’m a very active individual, I was glad to be finally done. I remember I went on a trip to the coast.  That whole week I went on trip after trip, it was time for me to breathe again,” she notes.

 Then, her partner proposed.

Mauldine Makwata

Mauldine Makwata.

Photo credit: Pool

Six weeks into her new lease of life, doctors advised for a PET scan just to be certain that the cancer had gone completely. On August 31, her results were ready.

‘Back to square one’

“My oncologist said the results were not looking good, that the cancer had spread to my spine, abdomen and lungs. We were back to square one,” Mauldine says. “The doctor said you are now at stage four. My first reaction was to break down.”

The next few hours saw Mauldine and her spouse sit in their car to let the news sink in. Her spouse was heartbroken.

“Let’s enjoy the remaining days we have together. Let’s not dwell on my illness,” she remembers telling him.  “When you have stage four cancer, it is terminal and the only treatment you get is to manage the symptoms but not to cure the disease.” 

With all these challenges and seemingly at death’s door, one would be forgiven for thinking that Mauldine and her partner called off the wedding, but she says her spouse was categorical that they had to go on with the plans.

“I had given up. I said; what’s the need of spending money on a ceremony for a marriage that we don’t know how long it’s going to last? But my husband said we would do the celebration for the sake of our children, who will forever cherish the memories.”

And so it happened that Mauldine and her spouse exchanged vows at Christ the King Amalemba Church in Kakamega before hosting their family and friends at their wedding reception at Ciala Resort in Kisumu. She wore a mermaid-shaped wedding gown, complete with a two-metre-long train extending from the back of her dress. One could hardly tell that she bore the weight of stage four cancer.

Ironically, Mauldine says it is during her battle with cancer that she accomplished the most in life in her career as a nurse manager as well as in her private business as the proprietor of Goldie Interiors and Makeover Company, and most importantly as a wife and mother.

On the cost of battling cancer, Mauldine says she and her spouse are blessed to have permanent and pensionable jobs which give them access to financial resources.

Expensive treatment

Her journey was, however, made easier because family and friends raised funds to pay for her expensive treatment.

“It is financially draining,” Mauldine admits. Because Mauldine’s cancer is terminal, she is largely on palliative care, but she is quick to add that she is confident of living a long full life. Cancer, she says, is like any other chronic illness out there; it requires careful and diligent management.

“I am managing it. It is just like managing diabetes or hypertension. These are chronic illnesses that require constant medication for patients to stay alive. In this journey I have met chronic cancer patients who have lived for decades,” she explains.

That Mauldine loves life and the things it has to offer is evident based on her impeccable sense of style; from her wardrobe to her beautifully put-together living room.

“Whenever I see something nice I buy it. I like makeup and my friends will tell you that I always remind them to look good as women,” she says. “We have a chama [women’s table banking group] where we dress up before we meet and you can’t just come looking the way you want”, she says as she shares a hearty laugh.

Mauldine has dedicated her life to caring for her husband and their two children.

“I used to take being married so lightly, but I think this journey has taught me that it is so important to have someone by your side when you are going through hard times. I don’t know if I would have made it this far if I was alone,” Mauldine says.

“Sometimes I’m so weak I can’t do much but my spouse steps in and he takes care of the children. During school meetings and birthdays, he will be there when I can’t. There are days I can’t pray and I ask him to pray for me and he does,” she adds.

“I think my children are the reason I have fought so hard; I look at them and think they cannot cope without mum, so I have to fight for them. I’m 34 and I still need my mum, what about them? They need a mother’s love even just one extra day with them will make such a difference in their lives.”