Lisa Christoffersen: Being given 10 days to live and surviving stage 4 cancer
Lisa Christoffersen is one of the original five housewives in season one of The Real Housewives of Nairobi reality TV show. She was introduced as an interior designer who also dabbles in curating luxurious safaris as well as driving safari rally vehicles. She is the founder of Lioness Rally, the first women only rally team in Kenya and is also a business owner.
Lisa is on record for saying she isn’t on the show for the money but joined it to have fun and sell Kenya to the world.
“Honestly speaking I joined for the fun because the money that was offered was so little compared to how much I gave to the show in terms of time but there was a catch. I know there are mzungus who have never left their countries of birth and their thinking is that Africa is this dark place. I wanted to demystify that and the world will get to see this as I take the girls on trips,” said the mother of two.
However, beneath the glitz and glamour of her life, there is a woman who battled stage 4 cancer circa 2006. In a recent interview with Buzz Central Kenya, Lisa recounted how in 2006, when her children were six and eight years old, she bled a lot.
One night, she woke up in a “bloodbath” in her bed and when she was taken to the bathroom, she fainted.
“I went to my gynecologist and I said something is very wrong. Long story short, in a period of three months, he did four DNCs – which means you are taken into a hospital, an anesthesiologist puts you out, they scrape everything out from your uterus and send it to the laboratories; and check what is going on,” she said.
“Many women have fibroids which can irritate lots and after four months, my doctor said to me ‘You are a hypochondriac, I cannot see anything wrong with you’ yet I was getting weaker, I was also bleeding like crazy. I was about 49 kilos and anemic. I was extremely white,” she narrated.
She recalled how she called her friends to direct her to the top gynecologist in Johannesburg, South Africa, because she’d heard they have amazing treatments, doctors and facilities; and she was able to secure an appointment.
One Thursday, her first doctor gave her the aforementioned prognosis and by Sunday, she was flying down to South Africa after he refused to refer her to a South African gynecologist, telling her to Google doctors instead.
“I deleted his number. I’ll never forget it. Sunday afternoon I am in Johannesburg, Monday afternoon I get taken in to a doctor. I couldn’t walk 50 meters at that point without coughing up blood. And you know, the thought of cancer never occurred to me. Me? Never! Something was just wrong. I had no symptoms except when I was walking I felt like my uterus would fall out so I wasn’t comfortable walking.
“He did 10 hours of checks. Everything from scans, X-rays, CT scans, blood and so forth. Tuesday morning I am in there again, first thing at 9 am he tells me ‘girl, you’ve got stage four cancer, we are giving you ten days to live’ Two massive tumors in my uterus that the other doctor could not see – one was 12 centimeters and the other 14 centimeters- two tumors that were pushing each other, that’s why I was feeling like my uterus was about to fall out,” Lisa narrated.
Tumors were also found in her lungs and these were the reasons why she was struggling to breathe and was coughing up blood. She was referred to a South African oncologist where she was told she was too weak to be operated on to remove the lung tumors to prevent them from spreading to her brain.
Lisa was told she wouldn’t survive the operation. She was, however, treated with the strongest oral chemotherapy drugs in South Africa after her doctor obtained permission from relevant government authorities and by Friday, she was getting chemo therapy.
At one point, she had 7 blood transfusions because she hemorrhaged into her lungs, causing them to collapse and technically killed her. She was revived and admitted to the intensive care unit for five weeks.
She resumed chemotherapy where she lost all her hair and it interfered with her memory for a while. A year later, Lisa was able to resume work where she faced financial challenges caused by her personal accountant who stole from her; but she was able to struggle through the years to pick herself up and recover her businesses, and was able to re-establish herself in 2010.