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BellaNaijarian Shares Her Breast Cancer Experience Chronicles with Survival Tips

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Ms. H* reached out to BellaNaija, asking for the opportunity to share the story of how she survived breast cancer. Oftentimes when we hear/read about cancer, we assume that it is something that happens to other people, or even older people. This is not so; it can happen to any body at any time.

While there is no known cause, it is expedient to take certain steps to try to keep it at bay, because early detection goes a long way in the odds of survival.

We are truly appreciative of Ms. H for sharing lessons from her breast cancer journey, with the BN audience and we hope everyone reading will take the necessary steps to check for lumps in their breasts.

***

Hi dear, can you feel that there is something on my breast, like a lump or something?

My husband reached out and confirmed that he felt something a bit hard there. “What is it?” he asked.

“I don’t know oh, it feels like that kind of stuff I had the last time that I had to remove from my breast.” Na wa oh, so I have to go and remove this one again sha. I thought to myself. “I will think about it when I settle down, there are way too many things going on now”. That was the last thing we said about it.

Three months later when things had supposedly settled down, I made out time to go see a doctor. He examined me and was pretty confident I just had another lump. “Just like what you had before,” he said. “Go and get an ultrasound from another section of the hospital and we will figure it out from there.”

Ah, but it was a rainy day, and it had already taken me nearly three hours just to see him. The whole day was gone and I had work piling up on my table that I needed to complete. “Another day jo. I will do it but not today. I don tire.

Another three months went by. One day, I woke up feeling very uncomfortable about this “lump in my left breast.” For some reason, it felt bigger, weightier and just out of place. “Hmm, that’s a bit unusual. I need to get this thing checked today.”

I don’t know what was pushing me but I began calling my brother (who never picks his phone) to send me the contacts of one of his friend who is a radiologist. “I just really have to get this checked today,” I told myself.

Finally, I got to the hospital and while he was examining me, we laughed and gisted, but suddenly his countenance changed. When he advised that maybe I do a mammogram, I had the first inkling that something was definitely wrong seeing that mammograms are only recommended for women 45 years and up – I mean, I am only 36 years old.

What happened after that seemed like a series of unfortunate events that were written for a horror movie. I had a series of multiple examinations, tests, and procedures. You need to understand, throughout all this, as a doctor, my mind was racing in and out of different scenarios. While I was praying and believing that it was not “what is in everyone’s mind but no-one is saying it” you can’t help but also prepare for the worst. So, what is the worst that could happen? I would have to remove the breast No shaking! After two weeks (that seemed like 200 years) of waiting, weeks full of anxiety, hope and strangely enough intermittent bouts of peace because you believe this can never happen to you – after all I am a child of God just on the precipice of taking off into great things – the diagnosis came in: Breast Cancer.

It was a nightmare I couldn’t seem to wake up from.

As I was trying to rationalize it and putting up a “positive attitude” as everyone was saying, they kept hitting me with blows, first you will need chemotherapy for at least six months. Then you will need to remove the breast and then undergo radiation therapy. In addition, a majority of what you need is not really available in this country. Then you realize that the worst that could actually happen is death. In that moment, your life flashes past your eyes and your priorities come into focus and you wonder why you spent so much time obsessing over inconsequential things.

This epistle is the first in a series of articles I intend to write to chronicle my “sojourn of healing and restoration” from breast cancer, because I am coming out bigger and better from this season in my life. I will share the key things that I have learned from each phase and take you through my journey. In the process, I hope it will change the life of someone out here.

Make time for yourself
Always make time for yourself. Don’t get so bogged down with the affairs of life that the important things are pushed aside in search of the hustle of life. This situation has shown me that “the so-called” work will continue with or without you.

Prioritize your health
Always prioritize your health. Always listen to your body and don’t neglect the signs it gives you even if you have overcome them before. Take the pains to make that doctor’s visit and follow through. It’s a very thin line between life and death.

Have a relationship with God
It is important to have a real relationship with God – I will expatiate on this more in my second write up. I believe it was the holy spirit that prompted me to have that “all of a sudden” need to go and check myself. Based on the duration of my symptoms, my doctors say they are amazed I am not worse than I am right now, so review your relationship with God. Is it where it should be?

Use social media effectively
Social media, if well harnessed, can be a great healing tool. I was hesitant to join Instagram last year because I thought it was just about people with fake lives deceiving other people with fake lives. However, I did join and through it, I have found such inspiring and uplifting and basically life-changing people on “the gram’ and these people unknown to them have been served as instruments of healing and transformation for me in this season. Therefore, you can decide to either follow only slay-mamas and pepper dem gang or actually identify mentors and life changers who will make a difference in your life. Instagram, right now, is my best friend.

Conduct regular self-examination
Learn how to do a breast-self-examination and do it regularly. The more you do it, the more you get to notice any changes. YouTube has many videos. If there is any change, don’t be afraid to tell your doctor. If you are over 45 years, stand up now and go get a mammogram. Believe me, it is worth stress! Intimate moments are also a great opportunity to get some examination sessions in, so husbands, examine your wives’ breasts regularly. Don’t be shy, you do it under the covers anyway.

* Not her real name.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime

7 Comments

  1. x-factor

    September 12, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    Deep!

  2. Ajala & Foodie

    September 12, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    Interesting read. What I am however curious about is why it took 2 weeks to get a diagnosis? I have had 2 scares that thankfully came back begnin. All I remember was how fast everything went. The first experience my mum wanted to come be with me but between my first Dr’s visit and me seeing the surgeon was only a 24 hr span (I was only 25 with no family around). Ultrasound was the same day before end of day they had already called to refer me to a surgeon. Surgeon was seeing me the very next. Second time was pretty much the same.

    I am just curious with regards to the process here, and maybe with you (author) being a Dr. You will be able to shed more light on this.

  3. stone

    September 13, 2018 at 12:44 am

    what i can’t wrap my head around is why it would take you almost six months to have all the right checks done, considering you’re a doctor, and you’d had a benign lump removed in the past. I simply don’t get it.

    • Bondy

      September 19, 2018 at 5:12 pm

      not speaking for the writer but it could be a case of oh “been there done that” since she has removed a benign lump before. On the other hand it could be fear of the unknown…

  4. Babe

    September 13, 2018 at 11:29 am

    Hmmm….Thanks for sharing. I look forwatd to reading the others. Hope i dont miss them.
    I’m a doctor too and i totally understand how we can sometimes sacrifice our self-care for our patients as you said, this work will continue.
    Please share your instahram mentors and thanks again for the reminder that this life is too short to sweat the small stuff .

  5. chiomah

    September 19, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing these lessons.. Sometimes we get bogged down with life and forget to take care of ourselves but thank God for his grace.

  6. Amaka Ozumba

    March 26, 2019 at 10:02 pm

    Very inspiring. Especially taking care of oneself. I must commend you for sharing. Thanks so much.

    I’ve only just found out that there are only 2 functioning radiotherapy units in Nigeria.
    Why is this not being addressed by the government ? How can a country with such a large population be so backwards with health care? And yet the government keeps getting re-elected.

    Is there a way to highlight this to the minister of health?

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