MDC-T president Morgan Tsvangirai’s stamina and capacity to sustain a rigorous 2018 campaign has been thrown into doubt following his public announcement that he has colon cancer.
By Wongai Zhangazha/Herbert Moyo
Tsvangirai revealed on Monday that he had been diagnosed with the disease after being referred to South Africa (SA), adding that he had to undergo several medical procedures, including chemotherapy.
Last week Tsvangirai was forced to cancel plans to join his supporters at the Mutare protest march against President Robert Mugabe with the party saying he had gone back to SA for a routine review.
Party sources told the Zimbabwe Independent — which heard of the cancer issue months ago — that Tsvangirai was receiving treatment at Donald Gordon Medical Centre, the teaching hospital at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa’s commercial hub of Johannesburg.
According to medical journals, colorectal cancer, as colon cancer is also known, is a malignant tumour arising from the inner wall of the large intestine. The large intestine (colon or large bowel) is about 152,4cm to 182,9cm long and about 7,62cm in diameter and acts as storage for waste.
Symptoms of colorectal cancer include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath and change in bowel habits, narrow stools, diarrhoea or constipation, red or dark blood in stool, weight loss, abdominal pain, cramps or bloating.
Once a colorectal cancer forms, it begins to grow in two ways. First the cancer can grow locally and extend through the wall of the intestine and invade adjacent structures.
Secondly, as the cancer grows it begins the process of metastasis, shedding thousands of cells a day into the blood and lymphatic system that can cause cancers to form in distant locations, such as lymph nodes, liver, abdominal cavity and the lungs. At this point, the cancer could be fatal.
However, the sources said Tsvangirai was fortunate in that his condition had been detected fairly early. It had not spread to other vital organs. They said he had “undergone successful surgery which involved cutting off the affected part of the colon and stitching the cancer free parts.”
“He will have to make regular trips every six months for continuing treatment and check-ups. He will also have to undergo a massive change in his dietary regimen cutting out alcoholic beverages among other things,” said one source.
One source said that the treatment and check-ups would seriously affect Tsvangirai’s ability to sustain a vigorous election campaign in 2018.
On Wednesday MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said Tsvangirai’s health problems had not affected the day-to-day business of the party.
“There is really no problem. In fact we applaud our leader for coming out in the open and being transparent. This is how it should be that those who occupy high political office to be open about their health,” Gutu said.
While in previous campaigns Tsvangirai had appeared fit and vigorously criss-crossed the country on the campaign trail, his main rival, Mugabe, has been diminishing in each election due to old age and ill health.
The 92-year-old, who is battling prostate cancer and eye problems, is widely seen as no longer fit to govern with senior government officials and aides saying old age and health problems are taking a heavy toll on him.
The officials say they have closely observed that the president has been fast deteriorating in terms of physical stature, mental alertness and health. His legs are sometimes swollen, making it painful for him to walk.
In the past years, Mugabe has experienced difficulty with balance. Last February he fell at the Harare International Airport after missing a step while alighting from a podium.