HealthPeopleSpecial Reports

MEMORIAL PHOTOS: How Rosemary Nankabirwa Died

Hundreds of mourners flocked Christ the King Church in Kampala this afternoon to pray for fallen renowned news anchor Rosemary Nankabirwa.

Nankabirwa passed on Sunday at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi after battling a rare cancer at the age of 37.

The mass was led by the Parish Priest Christ, sildenafil Rev Fr. Msg. George Kalumba, patient who described Nankabirwa as a young lady who has lived a “short life but achieved it all.”

He went ahead to say the fact that the deceased’s memorial service attracted a huge number of people means her life was “impactful and inspiring.”

“Such moments are difficult to manage because they come without warning, prescription ” Rev. Fr Kalumba added.

According to one of the priests who had seen Nankabirwa in London, the departed journalist was committed to church and attended mass regularly, a habit not quite common among the young people in European countries.

Rev Fr. Kalumba said that much as cancer had physically changed Nankabirwa, “she still afforded a smile” and that “God gave her the courage to withstand the pain.”

He also stressed that it is not the long life that one lives which pleases God but rather the goodness in that life however short it may be.


The Reverend urged mourners to always remain prepared to receive their Lord “because His servants never know when their master visits earth.”

The casket containing Nankabirwa's remains at the church
The casket containing Nankabirwa’s remains at the church

Diagnosed with a fatal cancer known as Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma, Nankabirwa passed on a day after hundreds of big-hearted Ugandans launched a massive fundraising campaign for her specialised treatment in Nairobi.

Nankabirwa’s death broke hearts of many a Ugandan who drew inspiration of hard work, professionalism and excellence from her.

According to a preacher, she was always ready even to take Holy Communion while in hospital.

“Coincidentally, God chose to take Rosemary on the Sunday of Divine mercy which shows that God was merciful to save her the pain,” said the preacher as hundreds of friends, relatives and members of the public broke down in grief.

The Human Resource Manager NTV Uganda, Solomon Muhiirwa, represented the Managing Director Aggie Konde who is in on an official trip in the US.

He expressed “heartfelt condolences” to the deceased’s family and thanked everyone that supported their cause to help the celebrity news anchor.

The body on arrival at Christ the King Church in Kampala
The body on arrival at Christ the King Church in Kampala

He said Nankabirwa was NTV Uganda’s first female news anchor in September 2006 who was equally good at telling the Ugandan story.

Even after she left for studies in London, she still filed news reports for NTV.

Muhiirwa added that after learning about Nankabirwa’s condition, they started a campaign because of the great services she had rendered the private broadcaster.

A sum of Shs 110m was raised from the Help Rosemary fundraising campaign and NTV agreed with Nankabirwa’s family that Shs 50m of that sum be channelled to the fight against cancer.

In response to the criticism that followed her death especially regarding NTV acting late, Muhiirwa stressed that the deceased left NTV 4 years ago and was no longer their employee but even then, they were kind to lead a campaign to help her.

He concluded by advising Ugandans to combine efforts in the fight against cancer.

Mourners broke down in grief during the church service
Mourners broke down in grief during the church service

How she died

Nankabirwa who returned to Uganda in December last year was first diagnosed with cancer at Life Link Hospital before her referral to Mulago Hospital following her severe condition.

Dr. Fualal Jane Odubu who performed the first operation on Nankabirwa at Mulago at the time of her admission, said the deceased’s physical structure and appearance had changed.

She was diagnosed with Cushings syndrome which is a disease resulting from fractures in the adrenal gland and cancer.

Dr Odubu said Nankabirwa’s adrenal gland had turned to gold yellow and its size was 12 cm big, compared to a normal one (2cm).

Nanakabirwa's body being brought inside the church
Nanakabirwa’s body being brought inside the church

It’s at this point that she noticed the severity of Nankabirwa’s case and recommended that her gland be tested in three different laboratories in and outside Uganda for conclusive results.

Upon return, the specimen had been diagnosed with adrenal cortical carcinoma cancer, a common type of cancer in kids.

The deceased’s cancer was at stage four at the time. Dr. Odubu said it took her two days to tell Nankabirwa’s mother about the results for fear of her reaction.

“By February 10 when Rosemary was brought back in the Intensive Care Unit, she no longer afforded a smile and being as lively as she was weeks back. Her lungs and liver had shut down,” said the doctor.

Parents and sisters of Nankabirwa giving a speech
Parents and sisters of Nankabirwa giving a speech

“Nankabirwa’s problem had started way before when she was in London because her face had changed color even if she never knew. She had disclosed to me that doctors in the UK diagnosed and were treating back ache. It was her wish to keep her condition unknown to the public and the media,” Dr Odubu stated.

Rebecca Nakayisa Kibirige, mother of the deceased, thanked everyone who gave in physical, spiritual as well as financial assistance to help her fallen daughter.

She added that for the time she had spent with her in hospital, she noticed that cancer means pain and high financial expense due to its costly treatment.

She expressed her gratitude to doctors who gave their all, adding, “we can’t begin questioning God’s plan for Rosemary.”

Nankabirwa was praised as a role model for the young people
Nankabirwa was praised as a role model for the young people

The mother narrated that she insisted that her daughter returns home during last year’s Christmas so that they can try alternative medical treatment here in Uganda.

She said “the Rosemary I received at the airport was very different, her bones were weakened.”

Mrs Nakayisa said Nankabirwa was always complaining that her mother and close friend Rhoda were holding her at Mulago Cancer Institute yet she needed to be released.

Nairobi Flight

On her flight to Nairobi over the weekend, said Nankabirwa’s mother, the deceased tried to sing her favourite gospel song, ‘Says Yes’ by Michelle Williams, but instead changed to ‘When Jesus says no, nobody can say Yes’.

Hon. Ruth Nankabirwa who represented government said she was shocked at the news about her namesake’s illness because it was abrupt.

”Like a rose, she was very charming but still very tough (strong) like the thorns of a rose,” the government Chief whip added.

Rosemary's best friend, Rhoda eulogising the deceased
Rosemary’s best friend, Rhoda eulogising the deceased

She called on mourners to make it a habit to go for routine checkups as opposed to the usual tendency of going to see doctors after falling sick.

Hon. Nankabirwa also highlighted that not all hope is lost because there are many testimonies of people who have recovered from the various types of cancer.

She said government is in plans of establishing a Cancer Institute of excellence in the region in addition to expanding Mulago Referral Hospital.

Army spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda and his police counterpart, Polly Namaye attending the memorial service
Army spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda and his police counterpart, Polly Namaye attending the memorial service

Life story

Nankabirwa was born on January 4, 1978 to Rebecca and Brian Kibirige. She attended Kenya School of Professionalism and Andrew Crawford School of Journalism in Kenya.

She returned to Uganda at the beginning of 2005 and worked with various media houses, the latest being NTV Uganda up to 2011 when she went to the UK University of London where she was pursuing a Masters in Journalism and Communication.

There will be a night vigil on Monday night at their home in Kanyanya off Gayaza Road where public viewing of her body will take place.

On Tuesday, her body will be laid to rest in Kanoni along the Masaka – Kyotera Road.

Army spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda and his police counterpart, Polly Namaye attending the memorial service
Army spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda and his police counterpart, Polly Namaye attending the memorial service


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