Hi guys! How are we all doing? I want to trust that by the grace of God, we all are fine and healthy. Yes! It’s October and it’s Pink. This month we try our best to raise awareness on Breast Cancer. So as part of my contribution to this, I have this short story for us all. Enjoy.
It was unfortunate how we lost Mother to breast cancer in July 2009, the month and year Barack Obama—newly-elected president of the US—visited Ghana. I remember watching the six o’clock evening news absentmindedly with Mother, the day Air Force One landed at the Kotoka International Airport for the third time, as Obama was the third U.S. president to visit Ghana after assuming office, her head resting on two soft pillows in her private ward. The news showed photos of the lovely Obama family smiling and waving, and of some delightful Ghanaians wearing Obama-imprinted t-shirts and other African wears, who’d gone to welcome the first ever black president of the United States to the motherland. Photos taken with the sitting Ghanaian president then, the late President Mills, during their bilateral meetings in the Oval office were also shown. There was also the photo of Obama and his young Ghanaian lookalike which went viral online and captured the hearts of many. Obama was everywhere, on all the news channels. Prior to his arrival, you’d see school kids carrying sketch pads with cover pages designed with photos of him and his elegant wife, Michelle. There was even something like “Obama biscuit” that surfaced, which turned out to be just the normal digestive biscuit. Trust Ghanaians to make business out of everything, anything!
There was positive energy and enthusiasm radiating throughout the whole nation, as radio stations, tv stations and the various media outlets blasted akwaaba songs and gave documentaries and speeches in anticipation of the visit. But for me it was all noise and clutter, as the only thing visible to me then, was of my mother’s rapidly deteriorating health due to last stage breast cancer—metastatic breast cancer, the doctors called it.
Mother’s breast cancer was discovered two years ago, when red, swelling lumps started showing on her left breast and around the tip of her nipple, which was already hardened like a tiny little pebble. Her surgery to remove the affected breast was slated for July 15th. On one of our regular trips to the psychiatrist as is required of most breast cancer-diagnosed patients awaiting surgery, mother expressed fear for the first time vocally. Then three days to the surgery, she wept in the car on our way to the hospital, saying should anything happen to her, I should remember that she loves me very much. Apparently she’d said the same thing to my sisters on phone earlier. Now mother was an extremely strong, optimistic woman, so seeing her like that made me feel broken. Our church pastor who came occasionally to pray with us anytime declared Mother would come back alive. The Holy Spirit had told him he was in control of everything so Mother should worry less and trust God, for the surgery would be a success.
Honestly, while a part of me wanted so much to believe in the power of God and trust in his servant’s words, I also couldn’t help but be a little fearful. Mother’s breast cancer was in the terminal stage. Her chances of survival were slimming day by day. The chances of survival are higher when detected early and treatment begins sooner, her doctors had said.
The last memory I have of Mother is of her being wheeled away into the theater, her face solemn and cheerful at the same time. I held her hand tightly, we all did, while our pastor said one last prayer. None of us knew then that that’d be the last prayer we’d ever say for her, that she’d close her eyes and never open them again. Had I known, I’d have held her hands tighter and prayed a little bit longer. Finally, they went in and the theater doors closed behind us. We waited. The doctors came out eventually, but Mother did not come back. She didn’t make it. We’d lost her.
I remember the first time I heard the news, how I wanted to strangulate the doctor who delivered it. I wanted to ask him why he came out without my mother, why he hadn’t made sure that she survived. Then I felt anger and sorrow and pain all in one flash, as my knees buckled to the floor outside the consulting room, teeth-chattering. At home, I screamed and cursed and cried. My most vivid memory is of my elder sisters pulling me out of the hospital, telling me it was alright amid their own streams of tears and choking voices. I was thirty-three at the time; the youngest of my mother’s three children—all females.
It’s been ten years since we lost Mother. And my sisters and I have been going for our regular checks at the hospital. I, personally, did a lot of breast self-examination—which I still do—before recently joining my sister’s on their annual mammogram exams, when I turned forty. The doctor recommended it because he says having a close relative who died from breast cancer increases your risk. He says it doesn’t mean we would automatically get it too, but if perchance, we were to get it, early detection could save us so we don’t end up like Mother who found out only when the cancer had spread and was almost beyond salvage point. I take my breast exams very seriously. Especially because of my husband and my nine year old daughter, Mimi, who’s cute and adorable and everything I desire in this world. I cannot let breast cancer snatch me from my loved ones or deprive me of watching Mimi grow into the beautiful, intelligible woman she is going to become. It’s sad enough Mimi couldn’t meet her maternal grandmother because of that deadly cancer of a disease that claimed her from all of us at such an early age of sixty-three, before her birth, a year afterwards.
Thank you for reading. I hope we keep raising awareness in our own little ways to save lives. Let’s not stop fighting! Breast cancer is curable if detected early.
God bless us all
See you soon with our next story…