It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we realized that breast cancer is something that deserves more attention than just, “Here are a couple of our best images for your viewing” It required a story, it required emotion, it required your attention, thus #ProjectPINK. Meet RoseMary who was willing to share her story in hopes of reaching out to someone out there…
2013 is, in short, the worst year of my life… a year that changed just about every part of my life. My name is RoseMary. You can call me Rose. I was born in Delta State but raised in Lagos. I married a wonderful man named Paul, fresh out of NYSC. We met in UNILAG. Paul was and still is the Love of my Life.Fast forward another six years, we had three children and seemed to be doing fairly OK. He was working with an oil company in the south while I, worked with a law firm here in Lagos. Last Year, in November 2012, Paul had come to Lagos for his birthday. After spending the first two days of his “vacation” with the kids and I, we took our own vacation to Lekki Beach Resort. The very first night after treating him to a dinner, we went back to our suite to show one another how much we missed each other. We proceeded to our normal “browsing” routine. All was fine, until Paul asked, “What is that?” Being slightly sore as he gently squeezed my breast, I replied, “The effect of what your hands do after three weeks of not seeing your wife.” Of course we laughed but in a more serious tone, Paul asked again and recommended that I see a physician. My period was due sometime soon so I soothed his mind and enjoyed the rest of my night and his birthday weekend by blaming it on the Period. Nothing could prepare me for the reality of what I would hear in my Doctor Office on February 24th, 2013, three months after Paul first feeling the lump. My doctor said: ‘I’m afraid it’s bad news – you have breast cancer’, the shock was so massive that I think I stopped breathing for a few seconds, the world went Mute. I could see the doctor’s mouth moving, but I couldn’t hear her speak. My brain kept resetting over and over trying to receive and process the information that was just given to me. I kept saying: ‘Are you sure? Are you absolutely sure?’ I couldn’t believe something could be so wrong when I felt so well. It seemed ridiculous. I have no risk factors, no family history and was not having any pain or problems in my breast area. I figured not having any of these would be my “get out of jail free card”, especially since I considered Breast Cancer to be “White People Disease” – a Western illness (Please forgive my ignorance). I Strongly believed Africans don’t get that. We get things like malaria and typhoid, worst case, HIV, but not cancer but I was wrong…Very wrong. It was so overwhelming to say the least, I fell apart; I couldn’t stop crying. The absolute worst thing about the diagnosis is that first day and every other day after that before you are able to pull yourself together and focus. You feel lost and hopeless because life as you have known it is ending. Things were going to change without my consent and beyond my control. Faced with the prospect of losing one of my breasts, I suddenly realised how they were utterly central to my sexuality. They made me a woman, and now Cancer holds them hostage. I kept telling Paul ‘I won’t be me any more – you won’t find me attractive,’ he tried to reassure me, but I still wept uncontrollably. My family would have to see me go through this and in many ways they would also go through it with me. That’s the thing some people don’t know. Cancer is never suffered alone. Everyone that you care for and that cares for you will go through the emotional rollercoaster with you and that haunts me every day. In the weeks before the mastectomy, I became more and more reclusive. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating. Paul would come to see meand I’d just sit and cry. My grief was overwhelming. I’d torture myself by standing in front of the bathroom mirror, flattening my breast with my hand and trying to imagine what I’d look like. I even started throwing away clothes I decided would be useless, such as low-cut tops and pretty bras. I’ll need radiation after the surgery and possibly chemo… Obviously, I did not expect to spend my summer fighting breast cancer, but it’s a fight I’m going to win.
Our prayers go out to all the women afflicted by this disease and the all the Survivors for their courage and strength. Remember to do Monthly Self Examinations. Protect the Girls! You are never too young or too old to have Breast Cancer. “See information at Breastcancer.org. We recommend [self-breast exams] to women, as they are complementary to other methods of detection. They are free, convenient and may be the one way a cancer could be found early – when it’s most likely to be curable.”