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I got hostility for sharing my prostate cancer battle – Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o

Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyongo was among the honored guests who attended the memorial service for the late Professor Micere Githae Mugo held on August 8, at the Taifa Hall at the University of Nairobi Campus.

In his message, Professor Nyongo hailed the late Micere as a public intellect who awakened the public about the ills in society by speaking truth to power.

He revealed they shared a long history with Micere, when she was a teacher at his High School, and often took time to talk to them about Kenya.

Eventually, they both became dons at the University of Nairobi in the 70s, which pleased Professor Nyongo because he had followed her career since high school.

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Professor Nyongo revealed that at one point, the late Micere was arrested with her baby. Her friends and colleagues pressured the government until she was released.

This would echo Professor Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s earlier statement that he and Micere wrote activism plays during the Kenyatta and Moi regimes that rubbed the government in the wrong way, and while he was imprisoned, the late Micere was jailed and released after a while.

“One of the things that Micere did as a public intellect was that she was very honest about issues and what she was going through regarding illness.

I remember when I was getting treatment in California for prostate cancer, and I started writing articles in the paper to make many aware of what it is cancer. I started getting many hostile messages on my phone, some people enquiring whether I was already dead and that kind of thing.

I said, ‘Oh, what is the point of hiding the situation when I know if I speak about it, I can help others?’

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Unless we speak out and educate the public as Micere did- that is the role of a public intellectual,” Professor Nyongo explained.

“Honest, straightforward, speaking the truth to power and the power in the medical profession who do not like to tell it all to the patients and the public.

And I will tell you one thing that happens in Kenya: why cancer is detected rather late. It’s because our own doctors are sometimes very shy to tell a patient the truth about what is happening.

And then you have to refer yourself to other jurisdictions to get the truth; by then, it might be late. But I think we should follow the example of Micere, a true public intellectual ready to speak truth to power for a cause and the public’s good. Honest, committed, and straightforward,” said Professor Nyongo.

The governor for Kisumu County also told of how Micere apologized to her friends about not being able to continue communicating with them because she was very sick, a degree of honesty in a public intellectual that amazed him.

“In the end, she couldn’t have been very useful to us as a society if she didn’t look after her life. I hope we shall all remember her in many ways that one,” concluded Professor Nyongo.

After battling cancer for years, the late Micere died on June 30, 2023.

On the other hand, Governor Nyongo was diagnosed with stage 3 prostate cancer in July 2010. He has been receiving treatment since then.

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