October is Cancer Awareness Month and as a survivor of breast cancer, Her Excellency, First Lady of Ondo State, Betty Akeredolu shares her story with Konye Chelsea Nwabogor of ThisDay.
In 1997, she was diagnosed with a cancerous breast tumor at just 44 years old, but she was determined to live. Today, she is using her story to create awareness through her NGO, Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN)
How she felt when she discovered she had cancer
Though I was scared, I was ready to do whatever it took to get rid of it and stay alive to raise my children who were very young at the time. The path to recovery is tedious and very painful. Some people have been known to give up the fight during this trying time.
At the time, I totally lost all sexual desires. It has also been said that some women have a stronger will to fight than others and this in return, determines how well they can deal with the illness.
I had all my treatment at University College Hospital, Ibadan. I had a mastectomy, which is a total removal of the affected breast. I didn’t take chemotherapy because it was at Stage 1, still localized. The cancer cells had not invaded the surrounding tissues.
So I escaped chemotherapy the most dreaded aspect of the treatment. However I had radiotherapy and was placed on Tamoxifen for two years to check recurrence. And thanks to God, it never did! It has been said that the course of treatment stretches the emotional balance of the patient and those around them to the limit.
I was very worried. I kept asking myself, “Will there be a recurrence’’? The fear that the breast cancer might come back can be very heart wrenching. Statistics also show that women who have great support from loved ones tend to deal with the illness better than those who have to fight it on their own.
Her advise to women
Every woman is at risk of developing breast cancer because the number one risk factor for breast cancer is being a female. It’s a disease that respects no one. Breast cancer respects nobody so it could be anyone. Every woman must be breast aware; meaning, knowing how your breast looks and feels by practicing the Breast Self examination (BSE) every month.
This routine takes about 15 minutes and it enables you to detect unusual breast changes such as lump, thickening, discoloura tion of skin and discharge from the nipples. When you notice any of such changes, GO TO THE HOS PITAL WITHOUT DELAY. Going to church and climbing mountains, to pray over breast cancer or thinking that the breast lump is juju affliction is a total waste of your time.
With my 20 years experience as a survivor, I can tell you without equivocation that breast cancer is a medical issue. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer and you seek care elsewhere instead of going to the hospital, you have on your own passed a death sentence to yourself. I want to state here that early detection and presentation enhances your chances of survival of breast cancer.