Dubai: When she was born, her parents were overwhelmed with joy and named her Fortunate. She grew up to become a strong woman and earned a college degree not because of good luck, but through sheer grit and determination.
Fortune favoured her and she fulfilled her dream of coming to the UAE in August last year to look for a suitable job, earn a decent living, support her family back home and save some money for her future.
Things, however, did not pan out as planned for 32-year-old Ugandan national Fortunate Twebaze. She had a series of health-related setbacks that kept her confined to her sickbed. She was diagnosed with colon cancer at an advanced stage. It’s the same disease that recently claimed the life of Chadwick Boseman, more popularly known as the superhero Black Panther.
Lack of academic credentials
Fortunate said she was misled and ended up working as a domestic help despite the promise by the recruitment agency that had hired her from Kampala. She was told that she would be working in a sales job.
She said she had completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Law from Uganda’s Kampala International University, but did not get the academic credentials and was not able to secure a suitable job.
She told Gulf News: “I was not able to pay my student loan, which reached around Dh13,000, and the university refused to release my academic credentials.”
With no academic credentials, Fortunate said she accepted the offer to work as a maid with a salary of just Dh800, but with free food and accommodation.
She did not mind the menial job — the options for her were to stay and work or go back home and face a huge debt. So, she chose to stay on. She said she was used to hard work anyway, having been raised by parents who were both farmers in the Kiruhura district in western Uganda.
But a month after working for a family with a huge villa in Abu Dhabi, she began experiencing excruciating pain in her stomach. At first, she dismissed it. The pain, however, was persistent and she requested her employer several times to take her to the hospital.
Fortunate said her employer turned down her repeated requests and that’s when she decided to run away. She absconded and found refuge at the house of a friend who lived in Dubai and provided her with regular painkillers.
Stage 4 colon cancer
The pain in her stomach went away for some time, only to return with a more severe intensity in the later part of May. Fortunate said: “My friend then took me to a hospital in Dubai and after a scan, doctors found lumps in my large intestine. I was referred to another hospital. Doctors confirmed the disease had spread rapidly and that I already had Stage 4 colon cancer. They recommended urgent radiation therapy and I had my first round of chemotherapy in July,” she added.
Chemotherapy on 32nd birthday
Fortunate underwent a second cycle of chemotherapy on August 6, which also happened to be her 32nd birthday. She her third round of chemotherapy on August 30. “The doctors recommended aggressive treatment. That’s why I had to undergo chemotherapy every three weeks for one year,” said Fortunate.
“Each session would cost around Dh2,300 and my next session is on September 21. The doctors said I needed at least Dh50,000 for the entire chemotherapy,” she added.
Help from Good Samaritans
Fortunate has no medical insurance and no source of income. Luckily, a kind-hearted nurse at the hospital, who is also a parishioner at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Oud Metha, Dubai, informed church officials about Fortunate’s condition and they were kind enough to fund the initial cycles of chemotherapy.
Speaking on behalf of St Mary’s Church, Rev Fr Lennie Connully said: “The only two sentences Fortunate has been saying repeatedly are: ‘Please help me. I want to live’.”
“We commend her courage and desire to live, but she will need more support as she is still very sick. We appeal to everyone to help save her life. Deserving and needy cases like her require much-needed prayers, support and generosity of the entire UAE community,” he added.
Strong will to live
Fortunate believes she has a strong chance to survive.
“I feel better now after three cycles of chemotherapy. Unlike before, when I could not even get up from bed, I can now stand, walk a few metres and eat some solid food. I am quite hopeful that I will survive,” said a resilient Fortunate.
She added: “I still feel fortunate to be just in this beautiful city and I am very hopeful that good fortune will smile on me as I pray to God and hope that people will help me.”