Ngozi Ejedimu is the founder of @whatcancernaija operated under The Judah Foundation for Breast Cancer and a breast cancer survivor on a mission to demystify breast cancer, change the narrative and let women know that there is life after breast cancer. She also runs a healthy juice company called @earthsblend_foodndrinks specialising in sugarcane juice blends.
As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she collaborates with Gbenga Art Smith who makes timeless pieces to pass on the message #iamnotmyscar. If breast cancer didn’t take your life, why should it take your dreams. I share to inspire a woman out there that there is always HOPE!
My Breast Cancer Journey
How I noticed the lump
I found the lump on the 5th of October 2016, one evening when I was settling down to watch a program on TV. It wasn’t there before, till today, I don’t understand how it appeared or even why. I showed my husband and he agreed that I needed to see a doctor immediately. The lump was hard and immovable.
I had a biopsy done on October 7th 2016, and waiting for the result was horrible. I had been told that it was cancer, but tests were needed to confirm. I only knew about cancer from what I had read and heard. I don’t remember the images been bright and cheerful. I tried to google to see if I would see images of women who had gone through breast cancer in Nigeria, but there was none. I was extremely disappointed. It would have been nice to have someone who had gone through the journey to talk to.
After 10 long days, the results came out and it was malignant, a series of other tests now followed. Do you know that after the biopsy, that place started to ache once in a while. It was like it was finally announcing that it was in my body.
What took my hand to the spot that day? It was GOD.
I was angry. First at God, how could HE have allowed this happen to me. I had lost my job in April 2016, so imagine finding out you have breast cancer in October of the same year. I started replaying my life and wondering if I had done anything to cause the cancer. I cried a lot, I was scared because I didn’t know what was going to happen, as I had heard breast cancer treatment was expensive. We couldn’t afford it. I was confused. At this stage, you have so many emotions going through you, that you have to be careful not to allow the wrong things take over your mind.
After all the drama that came with receiving the news, I eventually calmed down and went back to GOD to ask HIM to help me. We told a few people and God sent us the much-needed resources through family, church and friends and a decision was made for me to go to India to have the surgery done. Denial wasn’t an option, I felt the lump, there is something called healing pattern, I got the revelation in 2018. God heals people in different ways, for some the lump could disappear, for others you might have to go through surgery. Just wait on God and HE will always work out the situation for your good, if you let HIM. Everyone will react differently to the news and treatment.
Breast Cancer disrupted our lives. We had to put my daughter in boarding school. My son who was 3 years at the time was sent to stay with my parents in Abuja. My husband had to stop work. Breast cancer doesn’t wait to be invited in, it is sudden and always unexpected.
I travelled to India with my husband. This year made our marriage 19 years. I discovered the lump at 39. A PET scan was done in India on November 12th, followed by a Mammogram on November 14th. I couldn’t have a mammogram done in Nigeria because I wasn’t 40 yet. The mass in my right breast had spread to my right axillary lymph nodes. I had a right Modified Radical Mastectomy with a chemoport inserted on the 15th November 2016, it was invasive duct carcinoma stage 3 with metastasis to axillary lymph node. ER Negative PR Negative HER2 Negative (Triple Negative as it is called) I had a very good team and the doctor was extremely patient and explained the results and all the options available before the surgery was done.
Not every case will require a mastectomy. 4 women with breast cancer can have different diagnosis, type of cancer, staging, method of treatment and surgery options.
I had the option of a reconstruction after the surgery, but I refused as I didn’t want to stress my body further. After the surgery healed, chemotherapy started. I had my first chemocycle on November 30th in India. It didn’t make financial sense to stay in India for the duration of the treatment, so I came back with all the drugs I needed and continued in Nigeria. Second cycle was in December and I finished in April 2017. I had 16 rounds of aggressive chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy was extremely hard. I was on the internet a lot, but when all the side effects I read about were beginning to look scary. I logged off and just decided to take one day at a time. I lost my hair, oh I cried that day, not from the loss but because it happened sooner than I expected and I think there was a little part of me that was praying it wouldn’t happen. My nails turned black, skin discolouration, menopause, my face looked like a planet infected by dots. It basically changed my body. I also became forgetful, also known as “Chemo Brain”.
But who know what, at the end of the day, you will come out stronger, if you let go and let God. You will come out stronger, if you live in a positive space. You must be willing to live and fight.
You must also guard your heart during the journey, surround yourself with only good people and things. You don’t need to be near someone telling you of someone that just died of cancer or people coming to visit you and they are looking sad or crying. Feel free to cut off negative people, without any guilt. Warn those, you can’t cut off.
“Words kill, words give life; they are either poison or fruit-you choose ( Proverbs 18:21 MSG)
You can determine how the journey will end. The journey is tough, rough, there are good days and bad days, but trust me you will come out grateful, not because you lived, but because you now understand the process that got you here. Alive and still standing.
Note that not everyone reacts badly to chemotherapy. Always let your doctor know how you are feeling during treatment, don’t manage.
Life After Breast Cancer
It is impossible to live a life free of trials , they will test us, but also strengthen us. If I am asked if the journey has been worth it, I would say yes. I am not happy I have 1 breast or I even had breast cancer to begin with, but it has changed my life. I am able to reflect on the old me and see the progress I have made and I am grateful. I have been brought to a place where my mind has been renewed. I can share my journey through pictures and I am not shy or ashamed because I am thankful. My obligation to give thanks is no longer dependent on my circumstances.
I won’t change anything because I can now give thanks in everything.
Breast Cancer is just a distraction. Don’t let it become your label.
Have I told you?
- Half of what you hear about breast cancer is probably true, but then again, the other half isn’t. knowledge is power. Get your information from the right source please.
- If you have just discovered it is breast cancer: Get a second opinion/Find the right doctors/ know the questions to ask/ It is all in the attitude and mind.
- Research shows that cancer patients who receive detailed information about the disease and treatment options tend to have better outcomes and fewer side effects.
- There is still a lot of misinformation about breast cancer. Breast cancer is not contagious, it also cannot be treated at home with local herbs.
- Breast cancer is not a death sentence, but early detection and diagnosis are extremely important.
- You are not too young to have breast cancer, you are not too old to have breast cancer. Breast cancer does not discriminate. A breast lump is not the only sign of breast cancer and note that all lumps are not cancerous.
- During your monthly breast self-exams, look out for lumps, tenderness, soreness, nipple discharge, dimpling, redness or swelling. It doesn’t mean it is cancer, but report any changes to your doctor as soon as possible.
- Check your breast regularly even when you are pregnant or breast feeding.
- Don’t wait till it is too late before seeking help. It is not a thing of shame and your silence can kill you.
- Know your body well, so that it is easy to notice changes when they occur. Never ignore that nagging feeling, go and see a doctor. Getting medical help is extremely important.
- On the journey, ask questions, seek a second opinion when you are not satisfied, but you must understand the process. When your option is treatment and surgery, please don’t refuse from fear. Cancer spreads unfortunately when it is ignored. Do not ignore your routine hospital visits.
- Don’t package yourself as an object to be pitied. Ask yourself if you want to be a victim or survivor.
- Herbal products cannot cure breast cancer. Certain herbs and spices help patients cope with the side effects of treatment.
- Don’t stop treatment after a few sessions because you are feeling better, that is not how breast cancer treatment works, follow the treatment plan from start to finish and go for your regular check up afterwards.
- Sharing your story makes a difference.