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Adda B Say So:Cancer Awareness Week “Aje A duba”

By Fatima Zahra Umar

Penultimate weekend, The Jaruma team spent time with the good folks of MedicAid Foundation, for Cancer Awareness Week, under the care of the lovely Dr Zainab Bagudu. It was quite an educative experience, learning about the work that goes into creating awareness for this deadly disease. What touched me the most was the passion of the MedicAid team, for Cancer Awareness. They were dogged and worked tirelessly to ensure the week was indeed all about Cancer Awareness. Well done guys!

The Cancer Awareness Week also featured a “Walkaway Cancer” to raise funds for Cancer treatment for patients who are unable to afford lifesaving treatment. The turnout was impressive and I hope we were able to raise enough funds.

The Foundation hosted a stage play titled “The Fight”. The play chronicled the Cancer Journey of Bisi and the reactions and attitudes, from her family members, that followed her diagnosis. Bisi, a brilliant ambitious woman in the prime of her life is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. And her initial reaction is to ‘wait it out and die’. Her mother, played by the brilliant and awesome Joke Silva, wallows in denial, attributing the entire thing to her enemies from the village. Bisi’s husband becomes an unlikely cheerleader and hero, when he insists he wants to do anything to help her fight this cancer. This is despite his earlier threats of divorce. This underscores the importance of hope and support for cancer patients. Sometimes the psychological effects are more fatal than the physical. We must all join hands to support cancer patients in any way we can.

I must say, Bisi’s story mirrored my family’s journey after my mother was diagnosed.

Cancer is a sensitive topic for me as you can imagine. My mother fought Cancer right before my eyes, with all the odds stacked against her, and she fought valiantly and Alhamdulillah she won the battle. We were lucky; she was out of Nigeria, in a country that had quality healthcare and a prompt response system. My mother was able to fight cancer because it was detected early.

Unfortunately in Nigeria, the stories do not always end well. With our comatose healthcare delivery system, exorbitant cost of treatment and superstitious attitude, beating cancer is almost impossible. Cancer in our clime is viewed as a death sentence because we know our hospitals are not equipped to help us fight a good fight against cancer. We also do not trust how skilled our doctors are in this country. We would rather go the natural or alternative route. And because we are a superstitious society, we attribute symptoms to things like jinn or enemies, while the cancer progresses. By the time we run to hospital all hope is lost. When my mum was ill, I was so grateful to God that she was not in Nigeria for treatment, because I felt she would have probably being misdiagnosed and/or mistreated in this country.

I knew a young girl who had been misdiagnosed in Yola. She suffered unimaginable pain for almost a year before she was properly diagnosed at ABU teaching hospital, Shika with Breast Cancer. The doctors recommended surgery to remove both breasts, but her husband vehemently refused. He insisted they would get her traditional treatment and took her back to Yola where she was fed all sorts of concoctions. Her condition worsened and there was not much anyone could do for her. A few months later she passed away at the age of 24 leaving behind a young child. I cannot help but think early detection would have saved her life, and it would have saved her all the pain and suffering she went through.

Another reason Cancer defeats us in this part of the world, is that those of us who should know better never get tested. We do not bother to find out what is going on until something happens. We the urban educated folk ought to schedule screenings and tests at least annually. I started going for mammograms at 22 because, I was at risk as the daughter of a cancer patient.

Early detection is the first weapon against cancer. I cannot stop shouting that everybody should go and get tested. It is not only HIV that is life threatening, cancer testing is equally important. Like the singer Morell said on Saturday night:

‘A je a duba, a je a yi duba na ciwon cancer’

My passionate appeal to everyone is please and please ‘A je a duba”.

Please ensure you get screened regularly. Please ensure you donate to the cause, no amount is too little, what you think is little usually goes a long way to help. To learn about the MedicAid Cancer Foundation please visit medicaidcancerfoundation.org .

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