Dr Margaret Mwania battled cancer while pursuing her Master of Medicine degree at AKU.
Dr Margaret Mwania has been on an academic winning streak ever since she was 13 years old. From primary school to her undergraduate degree in medicine, she has always been among the top three students in her class.
Margaret grew up in a village in eastern Kenya and she traces her desire to heal others back to her mother’s ill health during her childhood.
“My mother used to be very sickly when I was young, so I knew from a very young age that I wanted to do something that would help her and the society. That thing was being a doctor.”
Her good grades only fueled her childhood dream to pursue medicine and led to her pursuing an undergraduate degree in medicine at Moi University in Kenya. That’s where Dr Mwania gained a deep interest in radiology. After working as a medical officer, she began the search for a credible university to do her postgraduate degree.
“I weighed my options among the three universities in Kenya which offer radiology as a postgraduate specialty. I felt that AKU had a wholesome programme, considering it was within a functional hospital. This of course meant proper systems as well as the state-of-art technology required in radiology and diagnostic imaging, so I knew I would get holistic exposure to the world of radiology.”
She qualified to join the residency programme at AKU and was prepared to learn and be mentored. However, towards the end of her first year, Dr Mwania received a shocking report – a cancer diagnosis. Immediately, she felt like her world was crumbling down.
“It was a very confusing time for me. I had no risk factors so I did not understand the diagnosis. At that point, all you know as a medic as well as logic goes out of the window. You forget that there are people who have survived cancer. Every day, I wanted to quit – I just felt like death was close.”
It took a senior resident at AKU who knew of her diagnosis to reassure her that cancer was not a death sentence. Dr Mwania immediately started chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi (AKUH,N). The toll it took on her body was immense and she had to take breaks in between her studies to recuperate. Thankfully the support of her son and her colleagues at AKU motivated her to continue with her studies.
“I’m so thankful to my colleagues and faculty within the radiology department for their support. They kept checking on me, were patient with me as I caught up on missed classes and overall, cheered me on with positive messages. Being a resident, really worked for me. It occupied my time – I would immerse myself in my work which kept my mind away from negative thoughts.”
Three years since her diagnosis, she’s proud to be among the 41 residents graduating from the Master of Medicine programme. Dr Mwania fought her way through chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery and considers the completion of her master’s degree during these challenges to be one of her greatest achievements in life.
“It’s funny how things align (laughs) I have an interest in PET CT imaging which is what I’m partly doing now. Initially, I feared looking at cancer imaging due to my experience, especially since PET CT deals mostly with cancer patients. With time, I’ve overcome that fear and I’m getting a lot of job satisfaction. It’s also a field I intend to sub-specialise in.”
Dr Mwania now says that she’s back to good health and to being her normal and bubbly self. She’s currently working as an instructor in the department of imaging and diagnostic radiology at AKUH,N and hopes to join a fellowship programme in future.