December 14th 2017

Media / Watchdog

Janet Ikua, whose battle against cancer inspired many, dies a year after being healed

Maina Kageni and Mwalimu Kingangi, the morning hosts on Classic 105 radio station, were instrumental in the media campaign for her fundraising. She traveled her treatment journey with the public, writing regular updates on her Facebook page.

By John Onyandojonyando@kenyafreepress.comSaturday, 01 Apr 2017 15:38 EAT

Janet shares good moments with her husband George.

Former NTV presenter Janet Kanini Ikua died this morning after battling lung cancer for several years. News about her death was relayed to the public by her former friend and NTV colleague Larry Madowo, who tweeted: “My friend Janet Kanini-Ikua breathed her last this morning. She was brave & inspiring. We're all privileged to have known her. Sleep well”.

Ms Ikua, 38, leaves behind her husband George Ikua, whom she married in 2008, and two children – son and daughter. Her death shocked many Kenyans, for whom she had become the face of struggle against cancer which is quickly gaining attention in the country - having claimed such acclaimed national icons like Wangari Maathai and Margaret Ogolla and renowned politicians, including most recently Nyeri governor Nderitu Gachagua. 

The NTV N-soko Property Show host was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. According to information she had released to the public, her cancer had developed from a complication of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). The cancer lesions had spread to her liver, bones, abdomen, lymph nodes and lungs by the time she was going for treatment in India. Her going public with her ailment brought her national fame and she used her condition to rally support for cancer patients.

In turn, Kenyans responded in unprecedented numbers to her medical appeal, contributing much beyond what her family had asked for. Maina Kageni and Mwalimu Kingangi, the morning hosts on Classic 105 radio station, were instrumental in the media campaign for her fundraising. From then on, she traveled her treatment journey with the public, writing regular updates on her Facebook page.

She also founded the Kanini 4 Africa Foundation, which she hoped to use for long-term campaign to raise awareness on the disease and marshal support for cancer patients. Early last year, she said doctors had declared her cancer-free. According to a report by The Star on February 14, 2016 she attributed her healing to a support network of friends, family and strangers praying for her and encouraging her. She made special mention of her husband who she said only recently revealed to her that doctors had given her less than six months to live after she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

“My hubby revealed something after we got the great news. He told me that last year, my doctors didn't think that I had more than six months to a year to live, but hubby refused to tell me because he knew it would stress me more,” the Star reported her as writing on Facebook. But she had had scars from the experience, including hair loss. Last June 22, she reminisced about her previous look, posting, “It's strange looking at a photo from my former life when my neck and chest didn't have surgical scars, and weaves were the order of the day.”

Educated at Loreto Convent Valley Road and Precious Blood Riruta, Ms Ikua did her her degree in education (Home Economics and Civics) at Kenyatta University. She was not a traditional journalist, and early in her career had focused more on acting and drama, then line of work in which she also met her future husband.

It was the NTV Property Show that brought her fame in the media world, and she used it subtly to champion personal causes, such women's rights in property ownership. Concurrent with being a presenter at NTV, she was a brand ambassador for baby diapers product Pampers for some time. 

Her unexpected death shocked many who flooded social media platforms with condolences. Through the hashtag #RIPJanetKaniniIkua, Kenyans on Twitter paid tribute to her. "I am deeply saddened by the passing of my friend Janet Kanini Ikua. We worked together. What a loss. We really have to tackle Cancer. RIP," Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua said.

"You left us a great FB update and a great interview with Churchill. Go well," Director Digital, Innovations and Diaspora Communications Dennis Itumbi said.

Janet Mbugua, the newscaster at Citizen TV, said, "My heart is so damn heavy. I'm praying for her family & friends. #RIPJanetKaniniIkua. What a woman you were. You will never be forgotten."

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