She mentioned my toe nail which I had to take out at a point.
All these episodes and God had brought me out of each and everyone of them.
She prayed that the surgery would be successful,
that the lumps would be ‘dead’…
that I’d live , grow and bear children and they would suckle my bosom.
I can never forget that prayer point.
It was very powerful.
All that while my focus had been on the surgery.
I had forgotten that when the lumps are finally taken out they would have to be tested to ensure that they were not ‘alive’- cancerous.
I guess somewhere deep within, I was convinced they were not cancerous so I did not allow it bother me.
When we were done praying, I slept.
The next morning after I had my bath I stood before the bathroom mirror.
I stood there topless.
I took my time and I absorbed the view of my young and ‘scarless’ chest for the last time.
I wore one of my favourite tops to the hospital. It was a pink top that said
“Wear it pink”. It was made for Breast Cancer Awareness. When my mum saw me she had a look on her face which I still haven’t been able to decode till date. When we got to the hospital a nurse took my weight, my BP and all the necessary pre surgery checks. I distinctly remember her even shaving my chest. One would think I was a gorilla. But she explained it was extremely necessary. I also remember I had painted the nail of my small finger pink and she gave me a swab soaked in spirit to clean it. She explained it was necessary my nails were clear to enable the surgeons detect any internal bleeding if any occurred.
So the reality of surgery was becoming ‘realer’ to me by the second.
I was taken into the theatre and shown a room where I was to change into the appropriate wears.
When I came out I was in that gown that leaves ones buttocks hanging out from behind and massive clogs.
My mum came in to see me for the last time and as I walked towards the teather proper music was playing… It was ijoba orun by Lara George!
At that point in time I started wondering if God was trying to say something?
I started thinking of all those who I held a grudge against and started ‘freeing’ them.
I laid down on the ‘1-inch’ wide theatre bed, under the massive bright lights.
I looked round and took in the details of my surroundings. The huge gas cylinder that was pumping oxygen into my system. The big round black clock that was ticking away, My ‘theatre gown’ that was now completely off…..
…. I woke up with a slight headache.
My eyes had decided they could dance and they insisted that was the time to show me. Everything was a blur I could see people but non of their faces were clear. It was at that point my mind kicked into hyper drive. I started trying to remember my name where I was , why I was there etc. I was in a ward on a proper bed with the tv on Africa Magic. I think I remember seing the blurred outlines of Pete Edochie’s face.
I was able to pick from the talk goin on in the room that three different lumps were taken out.
Apparently Dr Okeke had organised a room for us to stay the night.
Usually patients who have lumpectomy’s are free to go home the same day. He said he wanted to monitor my recovery.
My wonderful mother was by my side. She had waited for me to wake up. She held my hand and kept sayin “Ada its okay its okay” the tone of her voice was mixed with relief and amusement.
I was in a lot of pain and I could not move my left arm without wincing. My breast was heavily bandaged. Looking down at my chest was actually an amusing site because it was like a D-cup beside an A-cup.
The hospital sheets were stained. Stained with blood from my chest and… and you won’t believe what…
It appeared that mother nature had chosen that day to remind me I was a young girl undergoing reproductive maturity that day..
The nurse that came in to clean me up was warm and friendly. She did not snap at me or anything.
My Dad came in with my younger sister and from the look on her face her inquisitive mind was at work. I saw her gaze shift to the surgery site , though I was dressed. I just smiled and accepted her get well soon wishes.
I was just glad to be alive and healthy.
Phone calls started coming in and I remember my friend from school Damilare called me.
I was starving and so when my lunch came I wolfed it down in less than five minutes. I had not eaten all day, apparently whenever you are to be medically knocked out for surgery, you are not supposed to eat.
I stood up to ease myself at a point, when infront of the bathroom mirror I let the dressing gown I was wearing drop to my shoulders. I took in the heavily bandaged view and imagined what would now be different from what I had taken time to study in the morning.
The senior nurse that walked in to check up on me was shocked beyond words. She could not believe I was already standing.
I admit I enjoyed being called a strong girl.
That night, it was a bit of a struggle to sleep. I had pillows under my arm behind my shoulder and under my arm. I tried not to move around too much. Doctor okeke had warned me,when he came to check on me, against excessive movement because of my stitches.
The next morning, my after I had been instructed on how my medication was to be used, we left the hospital for home.
I was told to return a week after to take out the bandage and the stitches.
This meant I was going to miss even more time from school while my mates were studying. I did not like the sound of that at all.
My mums friend Auntie Lauretta came to see me. Knowing I was a huge fan of oreos she bought me two cartons of oreos , some yoghurt and dried berries. I was so excited. My mum expressed a little disapproval but we all felt the deed had been done , so what the heck?
The next day being easter sunday I went to church. There had been a debate at home about whether or not I should go to church but I insisted that I went.
Another challenge was finding the perfect dress that would not easily give away the D and A cup disparity that the bandage had subjected my bosom to.
I wore a blue dress with cream flowers and a cream jacket. That sunday was wonderful. I sat far from my parents and so I made sure during praise and worship I slipped on my dancing shoes and danced a serious ‘in yo’ face lucifer!’ Type of dance. That same day, Basket Mouth the comedian being a church memeber introduced to us, the now late C.D John who joked about choirs and the like.
it was a refreshing Esater sunday.
After the service, my mum’s friend auntie zainab who I guess was pretty excited, gave me a bear hug. I hugged her back though using my left arm as shield.
For the next few days I simply stayed in bed all day. My closet needed an adjustment and so my mum had to go shopping for a lot of crop tops that would put no pressure on my chest.
My dad hailed women for not having it easy because if he was saddled with this responsibility of having to shop for me he knew he would be clueless.
I decided not to let time pass me by even though there was not much I could do. Sitting at a table was even a challenge. Since, I had taken home some past questions from school on a flash drive, put them on my mum’s laptop and studied them. It was at this point as well that I familiarised myself with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow sun and I fell inlove with her writing. I had read her purple hibiscus and though I did not like the end, I loved every page of this Half of a yellow sun. My excuse to myself was that I was at least doing a bit of African History.
My JAMB exams were the nearest exams for me. Unfortunately I did not bring that set of past questions home so I just hoped deep inside that I’d get to school in good time for a crash study programme.
I had a corner in the house where I did all my reading of the Half of a yellow sun along with the Cambridge past question and answer scheme browsing.
That week seemed like the longest week ever. I was doing everything with my right hand, and shielding my left side with my right arm. I had to wipe myself down with a face towel during bath time to avoid wetting the bandage.
When the week was drawing to a close, the bandage had started to tell its tale. It told that I had bled and that the skin under was crying for air.
I could not wait to take it out and see what had become of my body!
The day for me to remove my stitches finally came.
When I got to the hospital, I showed my card and did all the necessary signing. I went into the hospital dressing room, the mild smell of liquids like Eusol and dettol hit my olfactory nerves.
It was a young and pretty nurse that attended to me. She took off the entire bandage.
I looked down and saw the tiny black knots of thread holding my skin together. The part that was opened seemed to have healed up nicely.
She wiped the enitre operation site with a liquid coloured like savlon and cotton swabs. Then she cut the stitches one by one.
I was excited. So the ordeal was over?!
The nurse mentioned that she had an aunt who was also a nurse and did not even know she had lumps. Apparently, it was her husband who noticed and they were actually cancerous.
It simply meant BSE is widely taken for granted.
I was asked to return for cleaning and checks before I returned to school.
I came a few days after hoping to finally tidy up all the medical issues and head to school to face my books.
On getting there and having the Doctor himself examine the site, he observed that the site had started to breakdown and if was filled with clotting. Then and there he instructed that I be taken to the theatre and get the site re stitched!
I hated this because it implied that I would need to wait a while again before I took out the stitches and then return to school.
So there I was on the ‘1 inch’ theatre bed again. This time wide awake. The doctor that was to stitch me up injected local anaesthetics into my chest. I noticed that the ‘needle and thread’ he was about to use was more like sickle and thread.
There was a young female doctor by the bedside, she held my hand and encouraged my while I watched as ithe doctor took out the clots and sewed me up again.
Some how I was able to urge my parents to let me return to school.
I returned two days before JAMB. My mum was being very understanding and kept saying I did not have to write the exam if I did not feel up to it. I insisted I wanted to. I knew it would take a whole lot but I just felt I should anyway.
When we got back to school my mum took me right into my class. She wanted to fend off ‘tight huggers’ like me.
At this point, my hand was always up unconsciously , shielding my chest. And so together we went into my class and I was warmly received after my ‘disappearance’. I was happy to see all my bible study group members especially my dear Lola. She hugged me knowingly and welcomed me.
I settled into school knowing I had a lot of catch up to do. I went to see Pastor Lanre and updated him on everything there was to give an update on.
The next day being a friday we all wore our red sport wear. There were not too many classes because the jamb exam was the next day. During lunch time I noticed I must have stained my shirt with stew because there was a large patch of what seemed like oil on my shirt.
I got back to my room later that day and took off my red shirt only to notice that the big patch I thought was oil was actually blood!
Lola walked into my room that point ,
* * *
Dear ladies breast cancer is real and Breast Self Examinations ought to be practiced.
Join again me as I round up tomorrow …