Health & Education

I AM A SURVIVOR BY IJEOMA UGBELASE

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“Scars may heal, blood counts may normalise and years may pass. But never again, will the simple act of waking up to a normal boring day as a healthy individual, be taken for granted, nor go unappreciated.”

Allison A, of Cairo, Egypt. American Cancer Society

 

Is today a boring day? Did someone get on your wrong side at work today? Are you tired of doing the same boring things day after day? Are you “meh” (indifferent) about the word tomorrow? Then let us play a game. A game we will call “tomorrow may not come!” For the purpose of this game, imagine you have found this long lost relative, who has a crystal ball and special powers. This relative can tell the future. This relative has just told you “your tomorrow will not come”.

 

What do you think will happen? Would you very indifferently say “Oh, that is fine. After all, I am tired of that boring and rote tomorrow. It may jolly well not come. I cannot be bothered.” Or would you give it a fight and be determined to see tomorrow no matter how boring you previously thought/think life was/is. As humans, we have a choice of how to react when confronted with a challenge and our decision is what shapes us. Life is filled with unexpected twists and turns … but sometimes, the unknown/what we thought could never happen to us, happen. In the wake of such events, if we manage them well, new paths can be created.

New path

New path formation is a function of choices made. Image courtesy of Zen Revolution

The word cancer, to many people in the very first instance, translates to “ your tomorrow may/will not come”. Even though some cancers can be managed properly and people go on to live near normal life thereafter, the picture that first comes into ones mind is one of an illness that spreads and ravages the body then leaves the patient six foot under (the malignant spread of tumours).  Cancers can affect virtually all parts of the human body, have no respect for anyone and can happen at any time.

 

This week on LR, we zoom in on one woman’s struggle and victory over the most common cancer found in women. It is important to mention here that this cancer also affects males. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), although this type of cancer is thought to be a disease of the developed world, almost 50% of it and 58% of deaths from it, occurs in less developed countries where the majority of cases are diagnosed in late stages. Although a small portion of this cancer we are talking about has an occurrence that is linked to family/genetic traits the majority of it is attributable to many other risk factors we have reserved for discussion as the sequel to this intriguing survivor perspective and how it has catalysed her to act positively and help humanity. She just will not be “meh”.

I AM A SURVIVOR BY IJEOMA UGBELASE

“I AM A SURVIVOUR (IAAS)” is a breast cancer initiative borne out of my personal experience with Breast Cancer. After my experience with Breast Cancer, I have come to realise that we can help save the lives of many other people when we take action. It does not matter what ever we do, in whatever way and no matter how small, all that matters is that we take action today because, “tomorrow may never come”. So, I am taking action now. I am organising a charity fundraising fashion show with the aim of raising awareness as well as fundraising for selected charities in the forefront of informing people about how to prevent and detect Breast Cancer early while also supporting those who already have it.

Can you relate with this meh emoji

Can you relate with this “meh” emoji? Does it inspire or expire strength? Image courtesy of The Emoji Movie

Like every other goal chasing young lady with a focus, I obtained a University education. I graduated with a BA in English from the University of Ilorin in Nigeria. I was not one to be daunted and determined to have it all, I obtained a Post Graduate/ Masters Degree in Human Resources Management from the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. In all of this, I should not forget to tell you how blessed I am, to have met and married my husband with whom I have my two lovely daughters.

 

It was in April 2013, while I was still breastfeeding my then 6 – month old daughter, that I noticed a lump in my left breast. Life was good; I did not bother too much about it because I thought it was just “collection of breast milk” that would eventually flow out. However, after a few weeks of hot towel massage, observing things and generally expecting this small but strange lump to ‘melt’ away, there was no change.  My husband would have no more of this strange non-resolving lump, which persisted despite the fact my baby was feeding well. He decided I had to visit the General Practitioner and Breast Clinic.

 

I had a series of investigations done. The anxiety while I waited for the investigation results was second to none. You can imagine my world when the doctors confirmed that the results showed the lump was cancerous.

To be honest I didn’t know what to think. My whole life flashed before me. I was in disbelief. This was when “I found my faith and my faith found me”. In our Christian faith we found solace – my husband and I held on to our hope in God. You see, my dear readers, having faith, defies logic and surmounts worry.  The doctors treat but it is God who heals. We resolved not to entertain any intrusive thoughts or fears that I might lose my life. Those positive thoughts kept us sane and helped to see my family and I through the treatment, which was offered.

Ijeoma Ugbelase

Ijeoma Ugbelase

 

I went on to have significant surgery, which involved removal of the left breast lump and surrounding breast tissue (lumpectomy) and some lymph nodes from my axilla (armpit). This was followed by Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy. Thankfully, I have been given the all clear, and today I am writing this. So I would just like someone out there to know that when detected in the early stages and given access to the right treatment, Breast Cancer is not a death sentence as a number of people seem to think and believe!! I am grateful for the chance to be alive. I must take action. I must affect my generation. I cannot do this alone. I need the help of other well-meaning citizens of our world.

 

I have decided that together, we are taking the battle onto the runway with an African fashion show. “I AM A SURVIVOR” will showcase the versatility of using African prints in today’s trendy fashion. This is in partnership with a few chosen charities. Some of these charities were chosen because I personally benefitted from them while battling breast cancer and believes in the work that they do to help those affected through the tough times.

I am Ijeoma Ugbelase and I will be turning 40 in September. They say life begins at 40. So as my life begins again, I have been thinking of a way to help real people and positively change other lives.

 

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I have therefore decided to organise this charity fundraiser event on behalf of a few charities working to support the fight against breast cancer. I have chosen The Willow Foundation and Breast Cancer Charity UK because they “held my hands” and saw me through a very difficult time during my treatment. I have also picked out Stand up To Cancer Nigeria because it is much nearer my home where the death rates from Cancer is among one of the highest across the African continent. The Stand Up To Cancer Nigeria team is doing a good job with raising awareness and giving support locally to people with cancer in Abuja, Nigeria.

 

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www.amasurvivor.org; https://www.facebook.com/iaas17/

I believe that by helping to raise awareness and drive support for people and families affected by this scourge; I will be giving back to those who have cared for me as well as to the very society provided treatment and support to my family and I.

I am from Africa, Nigeria to be precise. I Love our Ankara fabric, which is why I chose the “I AM A SURVIVOR” (IAAS) African Fashion show to showcase our beautiful fabric, designs, heritage and their blend with modern day fashion.

So please join us on the 23rd of September 2017 in Sheffield, for an Evening of Charity Fundraising, exhibition stalls, shopping and Fashion show with models on catwalk showcasing beautiful African Fashion. All proceeds will go to the three Charities offering support to people with cancer. Please visit the event website and invite all your friends, families and even those you think are your adversaries; it’s all for a good cause!

Join me; let us act now, for “tomorrow may never come”.

I AM A SURVIVOR, you too are a survivor. It does not need to be cancer, the day to day life challenges we all face are different and unique – we are all survivors.

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Team LR has done some cancer research. Our stimulus has been Ijeoma, an epitome of those everyday silent heroes in our midst, who are poised to make great changes. Our editorial team has now become very Breast Cancer aware and are going to supply you some awareness information. If you do not believe us, you can ask the WHO via Google.

  1. Did you know that Breast Cancer also affects men and that most times the detection of breast cancer in males is often at the very late stages?

 

  1. Did you know that October is the World Breast Cancer Awareness month? Also, in the United Kingdom, 18th -24th September have been set aside as the Brest Cancer Prevention Week.

 

  1. We bet you may not have known that the WHO states that a family history of breast cancer can increase the risk by a factor of 2 or 3 in cases of some gene mutations, which are thankfully, rare.

 

  1. Did you know that any situation causing prolonged exposure to the hormone oestrogen is a risk for breast cancer? Such situations include early onset of menstruation, late menopause, late age at first childbirth. Others include hormone replacement therapy and in very rare cases, the use of oral contraceptives. (That is not to say that you should not use oral contraception, but rather, you should check with your healthcare provider that you have no other risk factors before you embark on a type of pill).

 

  1. Would you have guessed that breastfeeding is protective against breast cancer? It is!

 

  1. Did you know that the contributions of various modifiable (reversible) lifestyle factors such as alcohol use, cigarette smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and use of certain cosmetics or exposure to certain chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls. However, advancing age, which is also a risk factor, cannot be reversed.

 

  1. Do you wonder how to detect breast cancer? It is by being aware of the early signs and symptoms like lump in breast no matter the size, change in skin (redness, puckering or dimpling) with or without pain in breast and unusual discharge/blood from nipple. Women should do a monthly self-breast examination as should men (yes men) and where it is available, mammography screening programme is the only screening method that has been proven to be effective.

 

  1. We are sure that for you to read up to this point, you must have figured out what to do, to reduce the risk of Breast Cancer. You must now also know, that when it is detected early, Breast Cancer treatment must be started soonest because this is what makes the difference with respect to the outcome and survival of patients.

 

  1. Did you know that as part of our contribution to generating awareness about Breast Cancer, every LR Editor has spent the past week researching the condition so we can together with our guest feature put this article together for you all?

 

  1. Do you know what you could do different today? You can take action too. Do not be “meh”. Plan and attend this event or find other ways to show support for these people that have put together an event like this for a great cause. Or you could put together, something even better than they are doing – put another “boring tomorrow” to good use.

 

“Cancer did not bring me to my knees, it brought me to my feet”.

Michael Douglas

 

“Someone once asked me how I hold my head up so high after all I have been through. I said, it’s because no matter what, I am a survivor. Not a victim.”

Patricia Buckley

 

 

********Many thanks to Pamela Obuh and Loretta Ogboro-Okor, the team LR editors who led the production of this article for your reading pleasure******* 

 

 

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