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I want to make everyone smile

By Agnes E. Nantaba

Dr. Fred Machyo Okuku, a consultant Oncologist at the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) talked to Agnes E. Nantaba.

Any three things we don’t know about you?

Machyo is my real surname while Okuku is my grandfather’s name. Am a born again Christian and listen a lot to people.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Loving one’s self and having a relationship with God. It starts with you; it is difficult to love others without loving yourself.

What is your greatest fear?

It is the extreme pain and suffering that some cancer patients go through. It makes me wish I had the powers to reverse the situation.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Confidence in myself.


What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Pessimists; I hate people who view life in a negative way. Even the wrong doers in society have a positive side and people who worry about them.

Which living person do you most admire?

My mentor Prof. Ken Miller, an Oncologist from the University of Yale in USA. He was a visiting specialist who developed interest in working with me. He also made me discover my interest in cancer.

What is your greatest extravagance?

My family; I can do any anything costly as it may be for my family.

What is your current state of mind?

Relaxed and hopeful for greater things.

What do you consider the most underrated virtue?

Faith in God; There is nothing impossible for those who have faith in the Lord

On what occasion do you lie?

I strive to speak the truth but at times, I am lured into lying by some patients. Some patients ask really complicated questions and the only way to restore their hope is to lie to them but of course the truth will be revealed in the course of treatment.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

It used to be my height as my classmates made fun of it. I was christened as the tallest student. Thank God, I have come to realize that I was uniquely created.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

Confidence and self evaluation; I like confident men who can also admit their mistakes and work towards rectifying them.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Confidence, faithful, truthful.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Phrases like ‘what’s cooking?, Oh really… cannot miss out in my conversations.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My wife Jennifer Nalubwama Machyo

When and where were you happiest?

On my wedding day in 2005; it was then that I realized God had finally confirmed our stay together.

Which talent would you most like to have?

Playing football; I  enjoy how they dribble the ball.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Profession aside, it is enjoying a happy marriage with my wife and two sons though some would underrate it.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

Mr. Smile would do. I would make everyone smile .

Where would you most like to live?

Near a fresh water body where I can feel the cool breeze; am planning on that.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Seeing a patient in severe pain yet I can’t do much to help; some cancer patients go through pain that is beyond imagination.

Why are there more cancer cases in Uganda?

The biggest challenge is awareness; most Ugandans are diagnosed at a very late stage. If only they could copy our counterparts in the developed world who do medical check-ups every year, we would scale down the figures. For instance, the current 40,000 cases of cervical cancer registered every year would reduce with early diagnosis.

There is a divide between cancers that are found in the Western world and those found in the developing world. For instance in Uganda, most cancers are caused by infections yet in the developed world, the commonest infections are viral infections. This makes prevention easier.

What should be done to be healthier?

When you hit the age of 40, you have crossed the red line. It is at this age and beyond that most people develop strange illnesses. The solution should then be to go for annual physical check-up to ascertain the baseline status for the body. And thereafter, one should do at least one body check-up annually.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Kindness; it makes me fit in my profession. Good medical personnel should rhyme with character and profession.

Who are your favorite writers?

T D Jakes and John Nagenda; Jakes’ books on relationships like ‘The lady, her lover and her Lord’ offer a spiritual path that cuts through the mixed messages and leads women towards the true self God wants them to be: strong, loving, and real.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Nelson Mandela; he was a brave and focused.

Who are your heroes in real life?

My late parents (RIP); my father was very tough but also interesting. He groomed me into a human being who matters to people’s lives.

What is your greatest regret?

I don’t regret anything in life.

How would you like to die?

Peacefully, humbly in my sleep.

What is your motto?

If God is your partner, make your plans big.

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