By Kennedy Mbele
Mrs Olanrewaju Tunde Adegoke is critically ill after being diagnosed with cancer. In this interview, Adegoke speaks about the excruciating pains she is going through while soliciting for help from kind hearted Nigerians to enable her complete treatment. Excerpts:
How did you know you could be having cancer and what steps did you take?
I knew I stood the risk of having cancer because I had three lumps in my left breast several years ago but the moment the lumps were removed, I erased the possibility of cancer from my mind because they were examined in the laboratory and it came out to be fibroid adenoma and cyst; that was when I turned 33 years, about 13 years ago.
What happened thereafter?
The doctor who removed the lumps told me I had nothing to fear since the lumps had been examined and confirmed to be ordinary fibroid adenoma. There were no more lumps in my breast for many years, but suddenly five months ago, I felt a hit on one of the scars and within a week I started itching at that point and within four weeks something tiny like tumor started growing from under the scar. I was no longer comfortable at that point. Within two months, the tiny growth widened to like 2cm and this made me to go to hospital to report my feelings.
When and where was it confirmed that the ailment you have is cancer? And what were your immediate reactions?
In February this year, I went to the National Hospital Abuja to see my doctor and immediately a biopsy was performed and the tissues were sent to the laboratory. The result indicated that what I have is cancer. My first reaction was, why will lumps removed, tested to be ordinary fibroid adenoma and cysts suddenly turned out to be cancer after 13 years. I shed tears of sadness, but immediately I wiped the tears because God spoke to me right there in the hospital that I will survive even though I was not aware then that the financial commitments for the treatment were very high.
Can you tell us about the doctor’s report confirming cancer?
According to the doctor’s report, immunohistochemistry was carried out and I was diagnosed with Histologically confirmed Invasive Lobular Carcinoma of the left breast, that is ER Positive, PR Negative and HER2 Neu Positive. This cancer, according to the doctor, is highly aggressive, yet highly treatable.
How is the treatment going? What stage are you in now and what is next?
Treatment started immediately cancer was confirmed to shrink the tumor and it is stage 2 cancer. Next is surgery and I will be due for it in June (next month).
People generally believe cancer treatment can be painful and expensive. Tell us your experience?
Cancer treatment is actually very painful and expensive. I do not wish an enemy to have such ailment. It is advisable to go to hospital where there are oncologists on ground for international standard of diagnosis and treatment otherwise it can turn out to be a mess. At the time I was diagnosed, I was given about two weeks’ appointment to come back to see the oncologist at the National Hospital Abuja due to long queues of people waiting to see oncologists too. As I was waiting for the day to come, even in serious and unbearable pains, doctors went on strike. I was only left with no option than to go to a private cancer center here in Abuja where I commenced treatment immediately and the pains disappeared. My experience is very encouraging because the tumor has reduced in size but it will take a long time and so much money to complete treatment. Doctors say I may need about N26million to complete treatment.
What kind of help have you received and what help do you need now going forward?
I have received assistance from close friends and family members. But we have spent so far all the immediate family savings of N6.5m and we are totally out of funds now but we still have a lot way to go. I need contributions from people with compassionate hearts so that I can continue the treatment.
If you had been diagnosed of cancer earlier, do you think you would have been in this situation?
My regret is that the earlier investigation did not alert me to any danger. If I had been told from the beginning that there is possibility of any lump or tumor coming back, I wouldn’t have undergone necessary treatment and wouldn’t be in this situation now.
What advice do you have for women generally on cancer?
Women, young and old, should go for CT scan and mammogram at least once a year. The problem is that it is not affordable for most women and it is quite unfortunate that there is so much hardship in this country which makes it difficult for ordinary citizens to afford the costs since our healthcare services are so poor. There is no access to free CT scan or mammogram in Nigeria, and that is why we have so many women with cancer without knowing they are carrying such a deadly disease in their bodies.
Do you think government is doing enough to help cancer patients in the country? How available are facilities and personnel to treat cancer using your experience as case study?
Our government is not helping cancer patients at all. Facilities are not available, only 2 to 4 hospitals have the facilities to treat cancer patients in the country and I learnt that not all the 4 hospitals have the facilities functioning at the moment. Imagine people coming from all over Nigeria to National Hospital Abuja for radiotherapy because that is the only place where you have functioning facility in the whole country. It is so sad that cancer patients are dying every day because of lack of free medical care and dearth of facilities as well.
Tell us your high and low points in this battle against cancer and how you overcame.
My high point in this battle is just the fact that I live in Abuja and I have little fund to start the treatment immediately I was diagnosed. My low point in this battle is that I feel depressed thinking about funds to complete treatment. I am yet to overcome it because my treatment still has a long way to go, which is the main reason for soliciting for funds from well-meaning people.
* Those who wish to help Olanrewaju can donate to her cause through GTB account number 0036147987. She can be reached through telephone number 08072793318