*Warning: This story contains a graphic photo some may find offensive
By SOLA OGUNDIPE
WHEN 25-year-old Linda Godwin, a primary school teacher residing at 11, Odofin Street, Olodi Apapa in Lagos, discovered a tiny lump (seed) in her right breast sometime in January 2012, she had no premonition she was on the threshold of a long and tortuous journey into the agonizing world of cancer.
Today Linda, who hails from Isi Umuozu, Nwangele LGA of Imo State, and is mother of a two and a half-year-old boy, is fighting the battle of her life against late-stage breast cancer.
In the hope to win the battle and survive, she is currently undergoing expensive chemotherapy at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Idi Araba, Lagos.
Linda who described her ordeal as the worst imaginable, is passionately appealing to all well meaning Nigerians for financial assistance to complete the therapy and to go abroad for further treatment.
Writhing and groaning in pains, she told a moving tale of anguish, regret and lamentation of the genesis of her ordeal.
“I discovered the lump in my breast by accident and called my husband’s attention to it. Together, we went to a diagnostic centre in Pako, Ajegunle area of Lagos State where a scan was prescribed. The result indicated that the lump was benign. We were told it was actually a cyst and not a malignant tumour as we initially feared.”
Linda said was prescribed Augmentin tablets and some other antibiotics and the couple was made to believe that the drugs would melt off the lump. She didn’t know it then, but the decision to follow the prescribed treatment turned out to be her undoing.
“To my surprise, the seed started growing even faster. The growth was so fast it covered almost half of the breast in no time. I became alarmed and on advice of concerned persons, decided to try out herbal medicine which I took orally and applied superficially on the breast. But there was no improvement.”
Linda has since been running from pillar to post in her quest for a cure. Her search for relief took her to various native doctors, traditional healers and Churches within and outside Lagos. But it was to no avail.
“I came back to Lagos hopeless. I went the NTA for help but unfortunately, they did not attend to us. My condition went from bad to worse. The lump became hard as stone and eventually covered my entire breast.
“It was at this point in time I was referred to LUTH where a medical consultant revealed that it was the antibiotics that triggered the abnormal growth of the tumour and worsened my condition. He said I ought to have removed the seed while it was still tender. He advised that the best option was to cut off the breast, but fear gripped me instantly at the thought of cutting off my breast at such a young age. I told my husband about the doctor’s advice and he did not buy the idea either.”
Linda went back home, but as time went by, the breast began rottening and falling off bit by bit until it fell off entirely on its own.
“People thought I was going to die and I had no option than to go back to the hospital. With the little money we could gather, we went to LUTH again. The doctor chided me for not listening to his advice earlier.”
A Medical report from LUTH indicated Linda is being managed for invasive ductal carcinoma, SBR Grade III, synchronous bilateral breast cancer.
“This is a late stage cancer,” noted Consultant Oncologist and Head of the Department of Radiation/Oncology, LUTH, Professor A.T. Ajekigbe, while confirming Linda was registered at the surgical outpatient department of the health institution on April 26, 2013. Ajekigbe recalled the patient had earlier reported at the Accident & Emergency on 20th March, 2013 and was diagnosed with right breast ulcer.
Lamenting that most cancer patients present late at the hospital,when only palliative care can be provided, he urged that the earlier the presentation, the better the mangement. “Let this be a warning to others. Examine your body and if you find anything wrong, give a shout and people will come to your assistance.
“When she got to the Accident & Emergency, her case was bad. She had history of difficulty of moving the right hand. Also had some oedema, then she was referred. When she was first seen it was at a late stage. She had the disease at least 15 months earlier before presenting. She had difficulty breathing for about one week before presenting,” he observed.
Further, Ajekigbe said what Linda has on the right arm is known as Lymphodema. “It is different from oedema. In lymphoedema, the lymphatic system is involved as a result of which the swelling does not easily go down. What we do is to manage it to reduce the complications.
Further, the Consultant Oncologist explained: “The axilla is the armpit and the breast they are related. I call them first cousins. what ever happens to the breast most of the time will stretch to the armpit near it, and what happens to the breast may come from the armpit, they are so related. It is called the lymphatic drainage system. The upper part of the breast drains into the system. if a doctor examines your breast for whatever reason, the doctor must also look into the armpit to see if there is anything there. he must check the lymph nodes.
“Occasionally when breast cancer spreads to the axilla, it blocks the lymphatic drainage system. The fluid comes down quite right, but cannot go back because of the blockage, hence the swollem arm. We advise patients to alleviate that part as often as possible. “Often, we use crepe bandage to push the fluid back. We may also apply fortified cream through massage to push the fluid back. We can also use what is known as Flowtron to push back the fluid to provide relief.”
At this point in time, the tumour has spread to Linda’s right arm and hand. She has been placed on an eight-course chemotherapy at three-week intervals. She has currently completed four courses and has four to go. Each treatment course costs approximately N300,000, but when drugs and other essentials are factored in, in addition to requirement of care and support, rehabilitation, radiotherapy, plastic surgery, etc., the cost runs even higher.
To effectively manage the condition, Linda currently requires approximately N500,000 every three weeks over the next one year.
In a passionate appeal, Linda is calling for assistance. “I am on my knees imploring kind-hearted Nigerians at home and abroad to have compassion and come to my aid. I need urgent financial assistance to continue managing this disorder and eventually go abroad for better treatment. Please help save my life.
Linda’s husband, Godwin, a native of Oron in Akwa Ibom State and a stylist by profession was overcome with emotion as he spoke about his wife’s predicament.
He lamented how he was compelled to sell off his shop at a point to raise money for his wife’s treatment. “I have visited many places, spiritualists, herbalists, and even specialists and I have spent all I have on the treatment of this illness.
“I cannot even afford my son’s school fees, and even feeding for my family has been a very big problem. My landlord has however been merciful to me as a result of my wife’s condition as I owe him rent for over a year.
“All I can now offer to my wife is only moral support and encouragement. I appeal to Nigerians who can help to please assist me and my family as we hope to fly Linda abroad for further treatment.We shall be ever grateful and God will bless you as you respond.”
If you wish to assist Linda, kindly send donations to Linda Godwin, Diamond Bank 0035014567, or call 08171334776 and 08038247106 for more details.