I can, we can win the battle against cancer

Delphine Delphine

A woman who discovers a lump in her breast is immediately assailed by a feeling of anxiety and panic. That is how I felt the evening I accidentally discovered a lump in my right breast. My heart was beating wildly. I wondered whether it was a cancer, a cyst or a benign tumour. I had no answer to these questions and I found myself alone in heavy silence and great mental confusion.

Early detection of cancer can save one’s life

I then remembered that early detection of cancer could save one’s life. I knew the importance of a regular mammography or radiographic breast examination; I even advised my friends and relatives to do it. My first reaction, therefore, was to undergo the test to know what was happening in my breast. I underwent the mammography, which confirmed the presence of the tumour. I had to do a biopsy, the test that would prove whether the tumour was a cancer or not. Waiting for the result appeared endless; I was filled with fear, anxiety and thoughts about the future. However, deep down, I was convinced that I could fight cancer if it was confirmed. I believed that regardless of the outcome, my thriving faith would enable me to proclaim defeat over the disease and my victory over cancer. 

The news was soon broken to me; a diagnosis had been made. I well and truly had breast cancer. 

When you are facing a difficult situation, know how to seek help

When the diagnosis was announced to us - I and my sister who accompanied me - the atmosphere in the room grew heavy. My sister was suddenly overcome by sorrow and she started crying. In spite of everything, I still had the strength to console her. An inner voice reassured me that I was not alone in my ordeal. I could count on the moral and spiritual support of persons I trusted, my family and a circle of friends, including a medical doctor. I was certain that I could turn to them at any moment and they would come to my help. 

It is important to keep up your spirits

The doctors decided that I needed an operation. Knowing that I had a great deal of support, it was with a joyful and peaceful heart that I went to the operating theatre. The attending surgeon was supposed to remove the cancer cells. The operation, which was scheduled from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., ended at 9 p.m. because the operated breast inexplicably started bleeding and I was taken back to the operating theatre. My doctor later informed me that the tumour had been successfully removed, but I had to undergo three months of chemotherapy and three months of radiotherapy because there was a 30% chance of recurrence, although the sentinel lymph node was healthy. 

Chemotherapy, a difficult but necessary stage

I never imagined what chemotherapy was going to put me through. There is no word to describe how I felt during the chemo sessions. It was as if I had been cast into emptiness; I was neither with the dead nor with the living. After the first chemo session, I began losing the hair on my head and all over my body, then I lost my appetite and even my thirst for water, because everything had become tasteless in my mouth. I felt pain in my muscles, bones and joints. My nails were blackened and painful. I felt pain under my armpits following the removal of the two lymph nodes during the operation. I had constant palpitations and headaches, accompanied by extreme fatigue, which caused insomnia. My already bad physical state was further compounded and worsened by constipation, nausea and vomiting. I wept day and night, but held on to my faith.

Radiotherapy, another stage in the treatment of cancer

Radiotherapy was another painful experience. I may not have felt like I was being cast into emptiness as with chemo, but I felt intense pain. My breast was irradiated for a few minutes, and day after day, I felt in my diseased breast the pain that is felt by persons who have been burned; the breast had grown to three times its normal size. My breast had been burned. I was in shock, it was just horrible!!!!

Keep hope alive and carry on with your professional activities

Throughout all these stages, I felt multiple forms of pain. However, instead of giving in to discouragement, I battled cancer, and to show that I had defeated it, I was constantly shuttling between treatment and returning to work, even though it was tiresome. It never occurred to me to stop working. I considered work to be vital, as it afforded me some form of stability. The fact that I was fighting for my children gave meaning to my life. All through the period of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, my faith in God was not shaken, and it saved me from sliding into depression. I would go to each of my sessions well dressed, carefully made up as if nothing was amiss, always wearing a new hat that matched my dress. I would take off my hat once I got to the chemotherapy hall, without bothering about the looks I got from the other women who opted for wigs. Guess what? Seeing that I was feeling at ease with my shaved head, some of them ended up throwing away their wigs! I continued to take care of my close relations as much as my strength would permit, and today, I take pleasure in raising women’s awareness on breast cancer wherever I have the opportunity to do so. 

My heartfelt appeal

All of us, women, men, children, should adopt healthy lifestyles and habits to avoid cancer. Too many women die of cancer because they have neither health insurance nor money to obtain treatment, and that is unacceptable. This situation must change, and together, let us ensure that it changes. The leaders of our countries must provide adequate care and treatment for all women suffering from cancer. We need cancer treatment facilities that provide treatment at affordable rates, as well as palliative care services to cater for patients whose cancer has reached an advanced stage. We can fight cancer! I am ready for the battle; what about you?