…As COPE fetes support group in Lagos
Every October, the world marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to raise awareness about the impact of the disease. For some, the Day is just like every other United Nation Day observed annually, however, for some reason, a group of breast cancer survivors sees it not just to raise awareness, but as a moment to reflect on the fact that there is life after breast cancer,
This aptly captured the essence of the fun-filled get-together organised by last week by the Care. Organisation. Public Enlightenment, COPE, at the EbonyLlife Cinema themed: “2022 Together We CAN.” with support from the Development Initiatives Network and Variant Advisory.
For these survivors who were thrilled with a film tagged: “Ticket to Paradise”, holding hands was key to coping with the challenges life may have thrown at them.
The event which brought smiles and tears of joy to some of them, indeed resonated their belief in walking the lonely path together as 59-year-old Mrs. Taiwo Bamishayo and three others received N1 million as financial assistance to support their ongoing treatment while some got breast prosthetics among others.
Survivor recounts challenges
Relating her life changing experience, Bamishayo said without finances, it will be difficult to survive breast cancer. “Even till now, I still owe the hospital N99, 000 and my children who help out, find it hard due to the state of the country,” Bamishayo told Good Health Weekly.
Like Bamishayo, many Nigerian women battling cancer are faced with the challenges of the exorbitant cost of treatment in the various hospitals while some who can no longer get support end up dying in their homes.
Narrating her experience to Good Health Weekly, Bamishayo who spoke about her predicament and struggles to have her chemotherapy done said, without money, no one can survive cancer.
From the time it started in 2020, Bamishayo has had 11 chemotherapies, remaining one to complete treatment.
“From my experiences, anyone who does not have money may find it very hard to survive breast cancer,” she recounted.
She said she struggled to meet up with hospital bills and is currently owing an outstanding bill of N99, 000. Worse still, her children who used to help out are facing their own challenges due to economic hardship in the country.
“My first child, who is a graduate, does not have a job yet. The second one has a job, but the salary is nothing to write home about. So, buying drugs has not been easy for me but thank God for COPE because they have been helping me in every way possible.
“Today, I received the sum of N250, 000 from hem, and they have been wonderful and supportive. So, now I can settle my pending bill at the hospital, and also pay for my 6th chemotherapy.”
Bamishayo who stated that her ordeal started in 2020 when she discovered a lump in one of her breasts consulted a doctor who told her to remove the lump. “After the lump was removed and I did more investigations, they discovered that the lump was cancerous and told me that I needed to remove the breast. I removed the breast and had six chemotherapies after that.
“But this year, I noticed another lump and went back to the hospital. After running tests, both in private and public hospitals, I was told that the second lump is also cancerous and needed removal too. Since then, I have had like five chemotherapies. Just one is left for me to finish.
“After the fifth chemotherapy, I experienced pains in my legs and found it hard to eat too, but it is better now compared to the fourth one, which was worse because I found it hard to walk then.”
For Margret, dealing with breast cancer brought out the best in her as she was now closer to God.”
“The first time I was told about it, I was scared and I thought I was going to die. Today, after my treatment, I am fine and doing well.
Another survivor, Angela who says breasts cancer treatment was not an easy journey said, “It is not the end of the world because we beleive there is life after breast cancer. I’m very excited to be here at this yearly event because COPE and her supporters have shown us that with them we can cope with breast cancer, it is not an easy journey but through COPE and everyone that is making COPE to be what it is, you people have been there for us and I am very grateful and happy. Today, coming to see my sisters all looking radiant is a big encouragement.”
The Chief Executive Officer of Care Organisation Public.Enlightenment, COPE, Mrs. Ebunola Anozie, explained that the whole point was to give hope to those living with cancer. She emphasised that there is life after breast cancer diagnosis.
Anozie pointed out that a woman who did a mastectomy does not reduce her quality of life or her status. “Life is important and we decided to bring them out to watch a movie here at Ebony life. We are having a lot of fun eating together. So, this allows us to have fun and mingle because we need support from one another which is the key thing. We need to join hands together to lift each other. They all have partners, so when something is wrong with one’s partner, I get to know because I will be informed. So, it is more like a sisterhood and that is what I like about the support group.”
Anozie maintained that regular screening, early detection and treatment were key to surviving breast cancer.
“We cannot say that it is the end of the world because someone has breast cancer, there is life after breast cancer. Some people you have seen here have their two breasts because they noticed early and did the necessary things early and they still have their breasts, but they are breast cancer survivors too.
One must not have a mastectomy done if one notices early. That is why we preach early detection, and we make it possible for women to come for a free ultra-sound scan every third Saturday of the month from 10 am to 2 pm. We still find some people that will screen, who have full-blown cancer, and who are young, so when you detect it early, you can save your life and the breast.”
She added that the essence of COPE was to reduce the mortality rate due to breast cancer in the country and they screen, counsel, refer, educate, enlighten and nurture.
Stating that from the results of their screening lately, more younger women are coming down with full-blown breast cancer and unfortunately, many of them present late to the hospitals for assistance. Anozie urged Nigerians to encourage women around them to come out for screening.
Message to women
“My advice is to women and men. Men also have breast cancer, although one in a 100. We are appealing to men to encourage their partners, wives, sisters and mothers to come and have their breasts screened, and we are not asking you to pay a dime for it. “
She said the N1 million distributed among four survivors was raised through their sponsors.
“We had to come in and help. That is why we are COPE. We thank our sponsors because we do not have the money, we are not a profit-making organisation, but we have sponsors like Variant Advisor. They have been supporting us for years. The free breast ultra-sound screening, we offer is made possible by them, and also taking care of support group members is also made possible by them. This programme we had was made possible by one of the trustees, Dr. Bola Fajemilokun, and the gift items shared were also sponsored by her sister.”
Giving her perspective on the challenges faced by the centre as well as survivors, a nurse at COPE, Mrs Florence Anyanwu said: working with COPE was like an eye-opener because she never knew the gravity of living with cancer. “I was amazed that someone can be alive after such an experience.”
Anyanwu explained that they are seeing an increase in cases involving younger women. “Yes, cases are actually on the increase but the difference is that people are finding it out on time. Therefore, survivors are now on the increase. People are now coming and making themselves available for treatments. There are more cases in younger people even from our last screening. A little girl of about 16 years has this very suspicious lump, even though we cannot say it is full-blown, it is so suspicious.”
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