Spread the love

Janet Kanini Ikua. She is the face of happy and energy. She has the looks that make you pause while surfing through the channels. She is obviously smart – always having a word for whichever expression.

[UPDATE: Janet passed away on 1st April 2017. This interview was recorded some months before her departure. May the Lord rest her soul in eternal peace].


You may now be aware that she is off the screen after being diagnosed with lung cancer Stage Four – and is receiving her chemotherapy in India. This is after a stint of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) whose cause remained elusive until September 13, this year, when the news of the ‘C’ word was broken to her and her husband.

Seeing her from this perspective amplifies what I thought of her to the millionth power. There is something about someone saying what they really feel when in a precarious situation. Then divulging the details eloquently, passionately and with humour! Her fight against lung cancer is feisty and inspiring. It is now clear that ‘happy’ is everywhere – in the dungeons, in joblessness, in lack, under the migraines…Just lift the issue and you find it there. Good things are un-destroyable. Actually they are amplified in the heat of trouble. Thus my re-walk with Janet Kanini-Ikua.

“I have a Bachelors degree in Education – Home Economics from Kenyatta University – oh I love teaching!” She chimes. And for the love of teaching, she hit the theatres and starred in a number of plays…teaching the society through art. She was then absorbed into NTV – lighting the screen with shows like Out & About – the travel show, some news anchoring and now The Property Show. Pampers recognized her as the most ideal mum to communicate their virtues. So alongside TV, she doubles up as Pampers’ brand ambassador.


She met Ikua after one of her Phoenix theatre shows. They clicked, and five years later they started their happily ever after. The pregnancies were pretty easy and the two munchkins – Peter and Jasmine, ever so sweet, became. They exude that cute a little-shy-about-new-attention sweetness, trying to witness the events behind their mothers dress. They surely make for a happy warm home that Janet loves to ‘fly’ to.

A parent on medication

“I woke up one day with muscle pulls on both legs. There was ankle and wrist pain too. I went to the clinic and got some painkillers to ease the pain. That Easter Holiday I travelled to ushago with my two children balancing on my two legs. When I got back my left leg was painful and swollen – 1 and ½ inches bigger. It was warmer and darker in colour. I thought it was the shoes I’d been wearing, or arthritis, low calcium or low potassium,” she narrates. Tests showed it was none of that. So later she got the results of a subsequent test.

“I limped with the results to NTV, and to Pampers – something forbidden for someone with a blood clot,” Janet says laughing. “When I finally sat down and told my mother that I had been diagnosed with DVT, there was a lot of silence on the other end. My sister (a medic) called me soon after that with the same amount of shock and phone calls and texts from them kept flowing. I was wondering that big deal was all about…” she says laughing. You can be sure with all that concern the next day she was at the doctors.

“I was admitted straight away. That is when it registered that something was really wrong,” she says seriously.

A few days later she was released with blood thinners, orthopedic stockings to the knees and instructions to keep off stilettos. These were followed to the letter. Two days later, however, she was breathless, couldn’t carry a few things she would easily carry, and going up the stairs saw her break a sweat. She had to go back to the hospital. “Come sit down…,” said the doctor with a grimmer face. “I don’t mean to be alarming – but you have a blood clot in your lungs and in your heart. That thing in your heart is close to the valve, so if you move about it can block the pass-way – making it fatal,” she recalls the doctor explaining. And it did not help that while this news was being relayed, her husband had to be on the other wing of the hospital with their sick son who had been admitted.

“I was later wheeled into the HDU in Nairobi West. Everyone I passed had oxygen. I was there for six nights. “I watched the guy next to me die – after some laboured breathing and all sorts of fluid coming from his mouth…” she says as she breaks down.

Janet had to keep her mood up – especially for her hubby and children – and herself too. “That’s when I started my Facebook postings,” she says. “The first one brought 600 responses of prayers and encouragement!” appreciates Janet. She says it gave her a lot of energy to keep on.

Then came the moment they had to decide between an open heart surgery to fish out the clot and thrombolytic therapy – taking medicine that would go smashing the blood clots. The challenge with the open heart surgery, was that they were going to have to open her up again after the surgery to put the ‘sieve’ in her waistline, so the blood clots forming in her legs don’t travel up to her vital organs. It was also going to take a much longer time to heal, which meant longer time away from her children. The thrombolytic option’s hitch was that you don’t know where the pieces of the shattered clots go. They could go and clog a critical conduit, resulting in death. “So all options weighed, my hubby and I agreed he signs up for the latter – thrombolytic therapy,” she says adding that the decision had to be between her and her hubby – since many opinions could delay the process or dissuade her from her conviction.

So the theatre gear came on – gas mask, monitors and all. “My heart was racing and my head was pounding. I quickly read the bible verses I got from some responses on Facebook. I held my bracelets which had my babies’ names and their photos. I was telling God I wanted to see my children and their children…,” she relives the moment. Ikua, her husband, walked to Nyayo Stadium – the waiting-bay was intense. But she survived to tell the story.

So back at home, her orthopedic stockings had to go waist high and her belly had to be injected every morning and evening with the much needed medication. This apparently entertained the children. “Now they eagerly watch hubby jabbing me with one eye closed and saying, ‘Look Mummy is being dungwad sindano ouch!’ After which I smile and tell them, ‘See! It’s not painful. So next time I take you to daktari you shouldn’t cry.’ – anything to make their doctor’s visits easier!” she laughs.

babylovenetwork_janet kanini ikua_deep vein thrombosis_lung cancer

Fingers crossed, hearts welling up with prayers they again sat outside radiology department waiting for her results. It showed another clot in the lung. A broncoscopy, endoscopy and colonoscopy showed everything else was intact. So what was making her blood clot at such a ridiculously rapid rate? They thought as they awaited the doctor’s report.

For more, I thought to share a sneak peek of her blogging.

“Sunday September 13th is a significant day in my life – the day I was told there is cancer in my body. I won’t bore you with my emotional reaction. At least hubby was by my side and the nurses turned out to be very supportive.
Chemotherapy begun last week with 22 hours continuous of pre-med drip to control side effects, then the chemo drug, a saline solution, more chemo drug, post-med drip, a one week break with a cocktail of pills and injections, then cycle one ended yesterday. I’m supposed to remain in New Delhi for sometime till the doctors confirm the best drugs that I can come home with to continue chemo. Fortunately hubby returned home two weeks ago to be with our babies because it was hard leaving them without us for so long, and it was heartbreaking watching them say, “Come here” whenever we Skyped. (frown emoticon) My Mum came to replace him and to fuss over me (smile emoticon) “Kanini drink more water…make sure you eat…are you warm enough…” Hehe… It’s interesting to be the baby again.

Has this time in India been easy? Not always. The other day a family with a daughter who’s my daughter’s age sat in front of me and I started crying as I showed the mother my kid’s photos. I do not claim to be the strongest spiritual person, however I have learnt, and I’m still learning, to Be Still And Know That He Is God. He is the Lord that healeth me. He is not done with me yet. I remember the blind man in the Bible who Jesus said was not cursed but was born blind so that God’s glory could be seen at work in him, just as it will be seen in me through my testimony. John 9:3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Lessons so far
  • At the hospital, the top resounding question is, “Have I spent quality time with my children and Hubby?” – “He is my greatest companion. He has been my friend through the fears, outbursts… He has prayed with me, encouraged me…”
  • The ultimate strength, patience and peace comes from God. Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
  • To wake up and smell the roses. Appreciate what is instead of thinking about what isn’t. When the weather is freezing cold, thank God for the warm clothes and beddings that cover family. When the sun comes out, thank God for the chance to get out and soak in some vitamin D and play ball with the kids for a couple of minutes.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.
  • I want to live 120 years! God is faithful

[UPDATE: Janet passed away on 1st April 2017. This interview was recorded some months before her departure. May the Lord rest her soul in eternal peace].

Listen to Janet’s powerful legacy testimonies on B.Radio

Janet Kanini Ikua’s “Faith from the Heart” is an inspiring narrative of her medical journal, narrated by her to Babylove Network’s B.TV

Leave a Comment