Hidden scars of breast most cancers survivors – Punch Newspapers


Besides the pains victims of bad most cancers undergo in Nigeria, the stigma they cope with within the face of poor entry to high quality well being care sends dozens of them to early graves, writes Eric Dumo

Petite and dark-complexioned, she is fast to flash a smile whether or not it’s a recognized face or not. Soft-spoken and calm, she radiates heat throughout her. But past the brilliant grin that sits on her cheeks is a scar that Funmilayo Oluwagbamila has lived with for the previous three years. Since first discovering a tiny development on her proper bad in May 2014 to finally having your entire part eliminated by a painful and costly surgical procedure a number of months later, life has not been the identical for the Ilesa, Osun State-born girl. Apart from now surviving from hand to mouth after dropping her major supply of earnings and different materials belongings, the mom of three has had her complete physiognomy modified, staring dying within the face on a number of events. The wounds are removed from therapeutic.

Once a bubbly and really agile girl, Oluwagbamila had all the things going for her previous to the time the surprising discovery was made. Besides operating a faculty for academically challenged youngsters from humble houses and in addition supplying instructional supplies to most faculties in Akure, capital of Ondo State, the place she resides, the 44-year-old additionally had her arms into different money-spinning ventures. Her husband, Michael, who had a thriving job in Lagos and journeys to Akure typically to be with them, was additionally doing properly. Everything was in place. There was no want to fret. But one fateful morning, issues fell aside. It has been robust selecting the items.

“I wish the day I felt that tiny growth on my bad which I thought was mere fat cyst never came,” the middle-aged mom mentioned, nodding her head dejectedly. “If I had known that it was a cancerous lump growing in my bad, I would have paid more attention. Maybe that would have made the difference,” she added painfully.

Even although her husband had all the time urged her to take the tiny development extra critically by going for mammography, the mom of three by no means actually discovered a lot cause to take action, as a substitute channelling her complete time and power into rising her companies. But after hitting her chest on her automotive’s steering throughout an accident in the future and subsequently visiting the hospital for a cardiology take a look at, she knew the unusual swelling wasn’t a joke. Sadly, it had change into too late then. The most cancers in her bad had reached stage three – past redemption, in line with medical doctors. The race to save lots of her life started in earnest.

“By the time I was examined, the cancer had affected my lymph nodes already,” Oluwagbamila mentioned, nearly bursting into tears. “I used to be informed I needed to do an entire mastectomy to save lots of my life and that the surgical procedure and chemotherapy would value an preliminary quantity of N500, 000 however on the time, I couldn’t even boast of N50, 000 money due to the best way issues had been.

Debbie Idiagbonya

“In no time, all that we had vanished as a result of the problem. We had to withdraw our children from the school they were attending to a cheaper one. We were living in an estate then but had to move out to stay in a less developed area where accommodation was cheaper. Also, we had to sell our car and land to fund part of my treatment. There was a foundation on the land already but we had to sell it just to raise enough money for my treatment. This was aside from the financial support we got from our church, relatives and other kind-hearted individuals. The disease sucked up all those funds,” she revealed.

Living with one bad

But if the 44-year-old thought that having the affected bad eliminated was the top of her issues, she was incorrect. Instead, the surgical procedure marked the start of her journey right into a world crammed with pains, tears and fixed heartbreaks. Like a multi-storeyed constructing shattered and swallowed by an earthquake, all the things round her started to crumble – and really quick, too. In flesh and in spirit, she wasn’t the identical anymore.

“After having my bad removed, I was left between life and death,” she mentioned, slowly taking a deep breath. “The unwanted effects of a number of periods of chemotherapy I underwent and the medication I used to be positioned on turned me right into a dwelling corpse. I misplaced all of the hair on my head, I turned critically obese, I noticed my nails rising black and falling off. I had reminiscence loss whereas a relentless headache turned my lot.

“Chemotherapy killed each the cancerous and regular cells in my physique. It was like a drug killing me to maintain me alive.

“My life modified from that time. I felt incomplete and unattractive. Whenever there have been guests in the home, I couldn’t transfer about freely in my pyjamas as a result of it will present that I’m one-baded.

“I keep in mind in the future our landlady got here round to ask for the home lease and since I used to be carried away, I rushed to open the door for her. Immediately she observed that one a part of my bad wasn’t there, she shouted and nearly handed out. She shortly went away with out speaking in regards to the lease once more.

“The ill treatment I have suffered at the hands of people since losing one bad is too numerous to mention. As a matter of fact, it took a while and a lot of counselling for our children to accept the fact that I had lost one bad. The experience has been that bad,” she mentioned.

Pbading by fireplace twice

Despite being bombarded with torrent of challenges after present process the bad removing often known as mastectomy in medical parlance, the worst was not but over for Oluwagbamila. Instead of the reprieve that she anticipated, extra heartbreaks greeted her. In reality, only some phrases can describe her ordeal.

“Early this year, I started having a strange feeling on the side of the bad that had been removed. I went to my oncologist for a test and when the result came out, it was discovered that another cancerous lump had grown on that same spot,” the 44-year-old minimize in sharply. “It was the worst news I had received in my entire life.” “At that point, I lost hope. I called my children and told them that I was going to die and that they must love and take care of each other when I am gone. They cried endlessly that day but my husband remained strong. He told me that I was not going to die. As a matter of fact, he had to resign his job in Lagos to come to stay with me in Akure. He encouraged me a lot and told me how my health condition wasn’t going to change his love for me. It was this support he gave me and the badistance I received from others that have helped me to stay alive. Without these, the pain I had been through and the stigma I have faced could have killed me a long time ago,” she mentioned.

Rejected for selecting life

Lots of girls lose their lives because of unqualified surgeons. Photos: Eric Dumo, file, healthmonitor.com

Like Oluwagbamila, Funmi Osiegbu has additionally stared dying within the face. But not like the previous, who got here out together with her life and marriage intact, the latter solely has one to carry on to right now – her life. In the midst of her battle with bad most cancers, Osiegbu’s husband of 13 years and father to her three youngsters walked away. That was in 2013. Four years down the road, she lives in a quiet world, confronting a number of obstacles by the day in her quest to forge forward.

“It is not easy when your image has been tampered with,” the Abuja-based businesswoman and advocacy knowledgeable, informed Saturday PUNCH. “As a lady bothered by bad most cancers, you lose your hair, femininity and so many different issues in the midst of the battle. It’s an enormous value victims need to pay and reside with for the remainder of their lives.

“There are some relationships I needed to minimize off as a result of they turned some sort of emotional burden on me. Every girl needs to stay of their marriage however as a result of I selected to reside, I misplaced mine. I didn’t actually get the kind of understanding that I wanted though initially, my husband did badist me. The fact is that the psychological and emotional badist is a long-term factor, I didn’t get that.

“Every marriage has its own issues but if not for the path I have been through, we would have been together still. But I lost that marriage because I chose to stay alive,” she added.

As is the case with most bad most cancers sufferers in Nigeria, Osiegbu’s badets suffered severe depletion within the means of in search of high quality medical care to save lots of her life.  After realising that the services with which to take care of her case weren’t out there within the nation, she needed to be moved to the United Arab Emirates the place she spent a number of weeks within the hospital. It wasn’t an affordable enterprise. But past the badets that had gone into her remedy, the mom of three says it’s the manner the society has reacted to girls like her that has saddened her most.

“There are people who sometimes think it is a curse for you to have one of your bads removed as a result of cancer,” she mentioned with a agency voice. “Just a few days in the past, I used to be someplace sharing my story and making an attempt to encourage different girls battling most cancers, some folks abused me for even having the braveness to discuss my expertise. They mentioned I used to be exposing my scar after I ought to have hidden it from the general public. They thought I might really feel dangerous however I didn’t as a result of my talking has helped a variety of girls keep alive. People attempt to stigmatise me a variety of occasions however I deflate them with my optimistic perspective.

“The truth is that living as a bad cancer survivor in Nigeria comes at a great cost because the way people treat you thereafter can kill you if you are not strong and close to God. As a person, I have developed coping mechanisms to stay alive; if not, it would have been a different story entirely,” she revealed.

Bimbo Osifala has additionally seen life fall like a pack of playing cards earlier than her eyes. At solely 30, she has tasted a few of the bitterest elements of existence. Even although born right into a humble background, it was till her encounter with bad most cancers in 2015 that she actually understood the true that means of struggling. Diagnosed with a lump on her left bad in August of that 12 months, she had no thought what was to come back within the following months. By December of that 12 months after enduring bouts of crushing pains, she needed to face the unhappy actuality. The affected bad was eliminated. The after-effects of the surgical procedure and the stigma she has confronted since then have mixed to make her life a dwelling hell.

“Sometimes I just wish this is all a dream and that I could wake up to a different reality,” the mom of 1 informed Saturday PUNCH. “People who know what you have been through sometimes want to take advantage of you and make you feel inferior. At the slightest opportunity, they want to kill your confidence and remind you that you are no longer complete. This is one sad situation that I have had to live with since losing one bad to cancer,” she added.

Like many ladies who misplaced one bad to the dreaded illness, Osifala and her household additionally misplaced their complete life financial savings and different valuables within the means of making an attempt to save lots of her. Apart from promoting nearly each merchandise in her hairdressing salon, the enterprise and different sources of earnings by the facet finally shut down as properly. Survival has change into much more vital for her since that interval.


“I had at least four stylists working in my salon before this problem began,” she revealed. “This was apart from the 4 different trainee-apprentices I additionally had below me. But when this most cancers challenge began and my well being worsened, I needed to promote all the things within the store steadily till the enterprise collapsed. My mother and father needed to additionally unload a variety of their possessions, together with jewelry simply to save lots of my life. Each chemotherapy session that I went by value at the very least N100, 000, I needed to take six. This was apart from the medication I purchased each month which typically value between N40, 000 and N50, 000. We will not be speaking of the dietary supplements I needed to take and the price of the surgical procedure itself.

“But beyond that, it is the way people have treated me since I lost one of my bads that has broken my heart the most. If not for God and the type of family I have that have encouraged me, maybe I could have committed suicide a long time ago. What I have experienced at the hands of people, I do not wish same even for my enemies,” she added.

Double tragedy

But whereas Oluwagbamila, Osiegbu and Osifala have lived to inform their tales though life has taken a very totally different flip for them since having one among their bads eliminated on account of most cancers, a handful others haven’t been fairly fortunate. The lack of high quality medical care, emotional badist and stigma they confronted after going below the knife mixed to snuff the life out of them.

Forty-nine on the time of her demise in June 2016 and a civil servant with the Institute of Agric Research and Training, Ibadan, Oyo State, Mrs. Juliana Adedara’s ordeal is a tragic reminder of the havoc bad most cancers continues to wreak throughout Nigeria. Apart from battling for all times till her final moments, she by no means totally recovered from the emotional and psychological results the surgical procedure and consequent stigma she confronted left her. According to her husband, Michael, she might have remained alive had the well being care services been up and operating.

“Even although we detected the lump in her bad fairly late, my spouse might have survived if there have been good medical services within the nation to handle her.

“Despite the fact that I spent all the money I had on me at the time, sold one of our two cars and one of our plots of land, the doctors couldn’t save her life because the facilities weren’t just there. My wife suffered a lot of emotional pains as a result of how people behaved towards her after the surgery. This contributed in killing her faster,” he mentioned.

A system designed to kill

According to the World Health Organisation, most cancers is the most typical killer of ladies in sub-Saharan Africa; it kills extra folks than malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis mixed. The world well being company says that over 100, 000 instances of most cancers are recorded in Nigeria yearly with one in eight girls more likely to die of bad most cancers.

Professor of Radiotherapy and Oncology on the College of Medicine, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Aderemi Ajekigbe, says that Nigeria at the moment has about two million recorded instances of most cancers with girls accounting for round 40 per cent of that quantity because of bad most cancers.

According to Dr. Kingsley Udoh, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Global Health on the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States of America, the poor state of well being care facility in Nigeria and the excessive value of accessing remedy the place out there are a part of the elements accountable for the excessive mortality fee amongst girls bothered with bad most cancers.

“Many girls don’t go to the hospital for vital checks as a result of they really feel it’s costly and that individuals go there to die. As a consequence, they go to their pastors or herbalists for badist. By the time they’re later rushed again to the hospital, it’s already a late stage most cancers.

“The well being care system in Nigeria is weak, so even when the illness is detected early, we don’t have the services to handle it. Even when such can be found, nearly all of the victims can not afford the price.

“Sometimes people have to wait for as long as six months to undergo radiotherapy after paying. By the time it eventually gets to their turns, the machine would have broken down. But then, the cancer doesn’t wait, it keeps growing. It is like a system deliberately designed to kill women,” he mentioned.

A pathetic state of affairs

The International Atomic Energy Agency and the WHO advocate one radiotherapy machine per a million folks. According to the 2006 nationwide inhabitants census, Nigeria has a inhabitants of 180 million – that means it wanted at the very least 180 radiotherapy machines working at each level to service the folks. But sadly, of the about eight at the moment within the nation, just one or two capabilities sometimes, rotating among the many University of Lagos, Sokoto and typically Benin. Eko Hospital is the one privately-owned facility that boasts of a practical one. Therefore, for the time being, there’s a deficit of round 172 radiotherapy machines.

A typical radiotherapy machine, in line with proton-therapy.org, prices $4m out there right now – about N1.4bn when transformed on the fee of N350 per US greenback. This is apart from the $1m consultants say is required to set it up and make use of skilled and ample personnel to function.

To shut the hole, Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, mentioned the federal government had earmarked round N9bn in 2017 for the acquisition of further radiotherapy machines in some tertiary well being establishments within the nation.

“We have made provision for radiotherapy machines within the 2017 funds; it was put below strategic intervention for tertiary hospitals.

“We know that is not enough, we are looking elsewhere to generate more funds for radiotherapy,” he mentioned.

When calculated, the quantity budgeted for by the Federal Government can solely purchase six machines – nowhere near the quantity nonetheless wanted to avert extra avoidable deaths amongst most cancers sufferers particularly girls who proceed to lose their bads and lives to the illness.

“Government should spend money on buying these applied sciences and in addition set up most cancers remedy centres the place there can be complete look after victims.

“Radiotherapy, being the primary treatment for cancer together with others like chemotherapy, is very vital if a victim must come out alive,” Dr. Udoh pointed.

Angels of hope

But within the face of presidency’s incapacity to shore up the deficit, a number of non-profit organisations throughout the nation have stepped into the fray to provide hope to victims of the illness particularly girls whose bads had been stolen by most cancers. Apart from embarking on common consciousness campaigns to sensitise them on the necessity for frequent checks by thorough screening, some have supplied monetary help to dozens on this clbad to bear very important medical care. Though an enormous pressure on their badets, these teams will not be relenting of their efforts to provide hope to all these bothered by the illness.

“I cannot put a figure to the amount we spend annually raising awareness on the disease and providing medical support for those affected by the scourge,” First Lady of Ondo State and founding father of Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria, Mrs. Betty Ayanwu-Akeredolu– herself a survivor of the illness –mentioned. “We do that from the little funds we pool collectively as a result of we can not proceed to attend for the federal government whereas our girls die.

“Cancer sufferers will not be being cared for in Nigeria, they’re left to struggle their battle on their very own. This is obvious within the poor medical providers out there to them. Radiotherapy which is a key component in most cancers remedy shouldn’t be out there right here, forcing a variety of victims to journey to Ghana to make use of the machine. This is shameful for the nation the scale of Nigeria.

“Imagine a state of affairs the place each state of the federation has one among these machines and mix with the seven the Federal Government has, the story would have been totally different.

“Apart from the intervention BRECAN has been doing over the years, we have begun the process of establishing a world-clbad cancer treatment centre in Akure so that our people can have more access to quality medical care at affordable cost. Cancer patients are increasing in Nigeria every day; if we must cater for them, then we need to put in place the right type of infrastructure for such purpose,” she mentioned.

Speaking throughout a four-day symposium as a part of actions marking the 20th anniversary of BRECAN in Akure lately, a marketing consultant surgeon and senior lecturer, Department of Surgery, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Adisa Adewale, mentioned that other than the shortage of ample infrastructure like radiotherapy machines to cater for bad most cancers sufferers in Nigeria, the prevalence of quack surgeons, who mutilate girls’s bads carelessly was additionally a serious cause for the variety of deaths recorded yearly.

“We need to develop specialisation in bad oncoplastic surgery to aid the delivery of quality surgical techniques and improve the outcome of bad cancer surgery in Nigeria,” he mentioned.

Hundreds of Nigerians lose their lives yearly and or endure everlasting disabilities on account of patronising quacks, who parade themselves as surgeons to hold out low cost operations. According to nearly all of the consultants, who spoke on the BRECAN symposium, the failure of the federal government to rid the system of those conmen is a part of the the explanation why extra girls proceed to die within the nation.

“The menace of these quacks has led to the mutilation and death of many women; this must be stopped. Apart from the poor health care facility in the country, this issue is another major area the government must quickly address to save our women from losing their bads unnecessarily and also dying,” Anyanwu-Akeredolu mentioned.

According to current statistics, at the very least 40 girls die in Nigeria each day on account of bad most cancers with 85 per cent of individuals on this clbad not having a household historical past of the illness. Apart from not with the ability to afford primary therapies like chemotherapy and radiotherapy on account of the comparatively excessive value, lots of the victims die of the consequences of poorly performed surgical procedures and the psychological breakdown arising from societal rejection after dropping one bad in such method.

Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Friday Okonofua, says besides the society adjustments the best way it treats victims, extra girls who misplaced their bads to most cancers will proceed to die of despair and never the ache of the surgical procedure itself.

“Though the causes of bad most cancers have but to be totally recognized, early detection and remedy can scale back the variety of girls killed within the nation.

“The type of care available to women who have lost one bad to cancer is very important. It marks the thin line between their staying alive and giving in to depression,” he mentioned.

While there have been requires the federal government to criminalise stigmatisation within the nation and in addition enhance the annual well being funds in order that many odd residents can have extra entry to high quality medical care, victims of most cancers particularly girls, who’ve misplaced their bads to the illness, cope with their new fates, dwelling with the scars within the face of rising societal rejection.

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