His political analysis was often incisive, even abrasive sometimes, writes Stephen Ssenkaaba.
It takes courage to publicly come out about a painful, wasting disease as cancer. More so if you are the sufferer. But for people like Jerry Okungu, a leading East African media consultant and commentator who died of prostate cancer last week, courage is not a particularly alien trait.
He embraced his own disease and all its effects with fervor. He spoke about it, as if it were a familiar friend, except in more poignant terms. “In May 2011, —I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at an advanced stage, he wrote on his website: http://www.jerryokungu.org/my-story. shtml.
“Because the disease comes like “a thief in the night”, it is imperative that all men get regular medical examination… the price you pay for failing to go for regular prostate exams is shock and devastation…” he wrote on May 26, 2011.
He later described the news of his diagnosis as “the most harrowing moment” in his family’s life. “We did at first not know how to handle it because in our family, we had never gone through this experience…” he said of the effect the news of his cancer had on his family.
Okungu was under no illusion about the devastating effects of cancer seeing as it was diagnosed quite late. Sometimes he perhaps feared for his own life (hence the telling Biblical allusion of the disease coming like a thief in the night).
And yet he soldiered on, traversing the world for treatment, researching about the disease and educating all who cared to listen. By the time of his death on Tuesday, January 21 at the MP Shah hospital in Nairobi, he had collected a wealth of information on cancer. Okungu turned this into a massive awareness campaign on the killer disease.
On his website, he shared personal experiences, medical tips and useful resources on fighting cancer. His newspaper columns in The Star and New Vision newspaper sometimes told of quest for a recovery that he never quite achieved.
According to his website, Okungu was born in Awasi, Kochongo village in Central Nyanza, Kenya. He was 61. He attended Wang’anga, Nyangoma and Awasi Primary School before joining Kisumu Day High School in Kisumu.He attended and graduated from the University of Nairobi in 1976 with a degree in Arts (Education).
“More recently, I for one got to know more about prostate cancer when he started the Jerry Okungu Prostate Cancer Forum.His message was very clear - he called upon more and more men to go for regular prostate cancer exams,” he says.
Fill in your Name and Email Address to receive a Free Newsletter
January 21 2014-Jerry Okungu