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I’m still alive 15 years after the doctors gave me 6 months to live — Breast cancer patient

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Breast Cancer

When the news of the death of the late wife of Pastor Taiwo Odukoya of the Fountain of Life Church broke on his Instagram page a few weeks ago, the media was awash with the news.  Late Nomthi, according to the husband, battled cancer for the better part of her last two years on earth.

Unlike the media perception, such stories are not strange to those undergoing cancer treatment or affected by cancer in one way or the other.  For them it is a daily challenge, despite this, however, many Nigerians are surviving against all odds.  Such is the case of a survivor, 55 years old Olufunmilayo Shonubi, Adewale Adebukola and many others who survived due to early detection, awareness and prompt treatment.

“Doctors said I had six months to live in 2006 when I turned 40,” Olufunmilayo told Good Health Weekly with so much cheer radiating all over her.

The enthusiasm to tell the story shortly after a 2021 End of Year Love Feast organised by the Cancer Organisation Public Enlightenment, C.O.PE, where cheques were presented to some patients still undergoing treatment, was enlightening.

“Medical practitioners failed because it’s God on the throne.  But despite the fact that it is God it didn’t stop me from taking my treatment,” she stated.

Precisely 15 years ago, Funmi as fondly called by family, friends and co-workers observed a lump in my left breast.  According to experts, her case was already in stage two. Before she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had visited three doctors without an accurate diagnosis of the growth in her left breast.

“None of the four senior consultant doctors I visited could detect the lump rather they attributed it to part of the normal breast tissue.  They told me why are am I troubling myself there’s nothing there”

But this development did not discourage Funmi. Rather, as a nurse, she decided to invite a doctor friend from her former hospital for more examination.

Funmi was not feeling any pain in the breast but she was worried.

Luckily, the lump was removed.  Crossing the first hurdle, she filled the histology form and took the sample to the laboratory.  Three weeks later, the result was released and she was given the prediction that she had only 6 months to live if she wasted time obtaining treatment.

Battle for survival

At this stage, depression set in. The thought of removing one breast is a problem on your psyche.   “You don’t want to even stand in front of the mirror because you’ll want to close your eyes when you see your body in front of the mirror because you’re battered. As a nurse, the battery is not the intention of your surgeon but for you to live. So for most people, it’s a mental challenge, most people go through depression and depression will eventually end in suicide.   “Some of those undergoing treatment have called to say they are depressed and thinking of ending it all. Even when they told me I’ve got six months to live. I just did God forbid within me and I started doing what I needed to do.”

 Funmi refused to give up against all odds.  “I didn’t waste time. I went to the oncologist first, they told me I’ve come to the right place that they needed to give me a shot of chemotherapy, a kind of injection that kills the cancer cells. So I had a shot of that. “I went to see the professor that did the surgery, it was Professor Wole Atoyebi.  It is better for me to live than die with my two breasts which will eventually fall off and rot if I don’t remove them.”

After the surgery, Funmi had 11 shots of chemotherapy at three weeks intervals and continued her radiotherapy at the University College Hospital in Ibadan as the one at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH was not working at that time. “It hasn’t been easy. I begged for assistance and borrowed money to live. My family members were there for me.”

Funmi emphasised that to treat any cancer, an individual may need over N20 million. But the type of cancer also determines the cost. At Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), radiotherapy alone costs N1 million.

“Today, I am a source of inspiration to others, some refused to have chemotherapy because it can cause your hair to fall off, vomiting, you can’t eat, it is the most terrible aspect of treatment of cancer followed by surgery and lastly the radiotherapy.  Some other lumps recurred but they were not cancerous.”

Lessons learnt

Funmi said the first lesson she learned was that God remains overall.

Secondly, the big lesson is that if there’s no money one can’t really survive cancer. That’s a very big lesson. It’s all about money.”

Cost of treatment

“The cost depends on the type of cancer, and the treatment differs but be it cancer of the colon, breast or brain or spinal cord, averagely, to treat cancer individual should at least N20 million for chemotherapy, not at a go but in divided doses or in bits.   “Then, depending on the type of cancer like I said before some are negative cancer like mine, some are positive. Those that are positive some are taking aseptin, like one woman we worked together in LUTH, she couldn’t afford her treatment because her husband is late, we organised ourselves to write to the Officials of NHIS in Abuja for her treatment since the NHIS does not include cancer.

“Her injection minus surgery, minus radiotherapy was N18 million. So if there was no money and we could not get that favour from the National Health Insurance Scheme, she would have died. 

“I would say money is essential in cancer treatment. At  LUTH, to do only radiotherapy is N1 million, then by the time you want to come for chemotherapy depending on the type of cancer and the type of chemotherapy, it’s so expensive. To even see a doctor at the new cancer centre at LUTH is over N70, 000 for a start,she said.

She recounted that 15 years ago with stage 2 breast cancer, she spent over N3 million.

One bad thing about cancer treatment, according to Funmi, is that you cannot procrastinate on treatment.

“By the time you have money to go and do it one would have been buried then.  I approached the chief medical director of LUTH, they gave me N100,000 so I practically went begging, borrowing, collected money from the cooperative, out of the  N3 million, the Cooperative gave me N400, 000.

“I was determined that God, if I’m useful to you let me live. Spiritually, prayers worked for me.  My family members were taking my photograph to different churches. I’m a happier person now.”

Funmi called on the federal government to subsidise treatment of cancer by making available machines used in treatment available in hospitals across the country.

 “Like other diseases such as HIV, the government should supply and subsidise treatment for cancer drugs free. Cancer too should be something like this, it’s expensive though but the government can do it instead of some people embezzling them.”

She testified that COPE had been wonderful supporting victims in the area of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, breast scan and enlightenment.

“There is a need for survivors to join support groups to get more information and know that they are not alone. I lost hope but C.O.PE gave me N1.680 million for treatment.”

C.O.PE reacts

According to the Founder/Chief Executive Officer, Cancer organization Public Enlightenment, C.O.PE, Mrs. Ebunoluwa Anozie, diagnosis and treatment of cancer is individual as the disease is unpredictable which can mutate at any point in time.

Anozie also noted that data from COPE’s breast ultrasound scan screening initiatives, which spans over two decades, revealed that roughly 1 in 12 women is expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer, and many cases occur in pre-menopausal women.

She noted that a high percentage of women in Nigeria was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer due to a variety of reasons. These include late presentation, poor access to basic healthcare, lack of finance, depression, illiteracy, cultural and religious beliefs, and fear of losing their breasts.

The organisation for over 26 years has placed emphasis on monthly breast self-examination (BSE), occasional Breast Ultrasound Scan (BUS) and at age 40, and a mammogram done once in three years or according to doctors’ advice and subsequently continue with BSE and BUS.

However, Funmi is not alone, another survivor,  Adewale Adebukola, a mother of 2 boys was also given a cheque of N1.680  million by C.O.PE to continue her treatment.

Encouraging Nigerians going through cancer treatment or who have survived cancer to join support groups, she explained that support is expedient, which involves the coming together of people with similar challenges or experiences- in this case, breast cancer – at a designated location and agreed date and time, to be empowered and overcome their fears and worries.  She said support groups share experiences and coping mechanisms, which help encourage members. “Our group is restricted to a certain number of members made up of newly diagnosed patients, patients currently undergoing treatment and women who have completed their cancer treatments -mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy. “Our goal is to create different activities to keep survivors healthy and active and we are happy that it is rewarding,” she added.

“We have been committed in our mission to reducing the mortality rate of breast cancer in Nigeria through Screening, Counseling, Referral, Education, Enlightenment and Nurturing (SCREEN).”

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West African leaders must collaborate to overcome common challenges – Buhari

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Buhari

ABUJA—PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari yesterday advocated renewed collaboration among West African leaders to overcome the myriad of common challenges, including state of insecurity facing the sub-region.

This is just as the President of Ghana and Chairman of Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Nana Akufo-Addo, said only two per cent of the entire population of the subregion had been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 pandemic. President Buhari made the advocacy in his welcome address at the 60th Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, held at the Old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He noted that the sub-region had, in recent times, managed to stay afloat amid a myriad of crises, which include the negative socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, state of insecurity, which has claimed many lives and left millions displaced.

The Nigerian leader, however, charged leaders of the region to be ready to deliberately work together in the task of finding solutions to the challenges, as a region.

“Our subregion continues to face socioeconomic, political, security, and environmental realities linked to Coronavirus pandemic. Our democracy is being challenged in Mali and Guinea. Furthermore, threats are looming around environmental degradation and climate change on our farming systems. We are facing a network of criminals, including terrorism.

“All of these challenges require our collective action to work in concert with each other to pragmatically address and provide our people better prospects in life. Today’s realities remind us of the need to continue to forge stronger solidarity in order to address the new challenges, including the current third wave of the pandemic and its Omicron variant.

“I am glad that the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States and the West Africa Health Organization are continuing to work with our respective national disease control centers to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on our people and subregion,” President Buhari said.

He, however, thanked the Ghanaian President and Chairman of ECOWAS, President Nana Akufo-Addo, for providing the needed leadership to member states, as they mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

In his opening remarks, President Akufo-Addostre-ssed the need for the subregion to take local production of COVID-19 vaccines more seriously, pointing out that with all the efforts so far made in the fight against the virus, only 2% of the population of the subregion had been completely vaccinated.

He said:   “As of 8th December, our region has recorded 674,556 cases of infections with some 10,000 deaths. This scourge has impacted our humanitarian, social and economic sectors, and it continues to rage with the emergence of a new variant and the risk of a new wave in our region.

“The new variant Omicron has already been found in three member states, and has led to unfortunate imposition of travel bans by some countries, which are unjustified and unacceptable. Meanwhile, the availability of vaccines continues to remain a problem. Despite our efforts, we have only 6% of our population receiving one dose, with 2% of the population fully vaccinated.

“Whilst we remain grateful for the support from friends of the community, we must continue to pursue national and regional efforts to fight COVID-19 and move rapidly into the domestic production of vaccines for the protection of our citizens and for the growth and development of our economy”.

The ECOWAS Chairman, also called for continued mobilization of troops for peace keeping in areas where peace is fragile, noted that all is being done to restore democratic governance in Mali and Guinea, where there were undemocratic change of power

Akufo-Addo restated ECOWAS’ resolve to promote good governance in West Africa, through the sustenance of democratic institutions.

“We continue to be faced with security trials in the forms of deadly terrorist and kidnapping attacks, particularly in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, causing numerous casualties amongst civilians and security forces, resulting in a significant number of displaced persons.

“Recent events in Burkina Faso are matters of the greatest concern. Increased coordination, however, on the part of coastal nations, have recently led to an improved maritime security situation in the Gulf of Guinea.

“Let me on behalf of the authority, condemn in the strongest terms, these attacks that continue to plague our region. Significant efforts are being made at both national and regional levels to fight terrorism and extremism.

“We must step up our efforts to deal with these tasks which will be imposed upon us and we must act in such a way that no one will doubt our resolve to protect our peoples and the peace and stability of our countries”, Akufo-Addo said.

He congratulated President Jose Neves of Cape Verde, who was attending the summit for the first time, as well as Adama Barrow of Gambia, who recently got re-elected.

In a goodwill message, the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, represented by the Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Annadif Saleh, pledged more support for ECOWAS, as he sued for more cooperation among member States. 

Guterres commended Cape Verde and the Gambia, for holding peaceful Presidential elections recently.

In another goodwill message, the African Union represented by its Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Nigeria’s Bankole Adeoye, hailed ECOWAS for sustaining democracy in West Africa.

The AU pledged to continue to work closely with ECOWAS to ensure the promotion of good governance within the region.

The two-day summit was attended by Heads of State and government of all the member States, as well as Former Nigerian leader and ECOWAS Special Envoy and Mediator to Mali, Goodluck Jonathan, and President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean Kassi Brou, among others.

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FG urged to re-visit matters of NDDC board

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Niger Delta Development Commission

A prominent northern leader, Alhaji Musa Saidu has again called for the urgent inauguration of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, saying the delay was generating tension in the region.

Alhaji Saidu who is the leader of Arewa in the South and former aide to Late Chief  Harold Dappa Biriye also lashed at some youths under the aegis of Niger Delta Progressives Movement, NDPM, who poured encomiums on the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio for launching a Strategic  Implementation Work Plan for his Ministry, dismissing them as political traders.

Saidu said it was unfortunate that some youths would come out at this time to shower praises on the Minister at a time the region was condemning his delay in constituting aboard for the NDDC.

“I am not sure they are Niger Delta youths. At a time the region is bitter over delay in constituting aboard for the NDDC some youths could come out to shower praises. This is wrong.  What we expect now is for all Niger Deltans and youths inclusive to be focused on agitating for a board for the commission and fixing the East-West road. “, he said.

“When these are done, achieved then you can call anyone a Messiah. But for now, these youths that came up with the statement under the name Niger Delta Progressives Movement, NDPM,  should bury their heads in shame. “, he said.

He said he had called for the sack of the Minister over the delay in inaugurating aboard for the commission and the deplorable state of the East-West road, adding that he had not changed his mind.

Alhaji Saidu said the Niger Delta is very dear to him because he had been actively involved in driving matters of development in the region, adding that he moved a motion for the north to support the creation of the NDDC at a gathering of prominent northerners at the Arewa House when he was national youth President of Arewa Youth Forum.

Continuing, he said as an aide to the late Harold Dappa Biriye, a Frontline leader of the Niger Delta, he accompanied the late sage to almost all meetings on matters of development of the region.

“And at meetings in the north  Chief Biriye will ask me to speak first on matters of the region on many occasions before he would wrap up. So you know and see my passion for the region”, he said.

Alhaji  Saidu further called for the implementation of recommendations of the Niger Delta Environmental Survey and several other recommendations on Niger Delta, stressing that sweeping them under the carpet was not a good one for any serious government.

“It is high time federal government visited recommendations on redressing challenges in the Niger Delta. There are several of them. There are the recommendations of the Niger Delta Environmental Survey and many others. They should give them attention so the area can enjoy development “, he said.

On the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator  Akpabio, he said he was calling again for his sack because of his failure to keep his promise to inaugurate aboard for the NDDC before August this year.

“We heard the  Minister when he visited stakeholders in Warri, Delta state that he was going to ensure aboard was in place before the end of July. But this has not come to be since. then. I still call for his sack. The East-West road is in shambles. The dry season is the time.to work but you see the situation. “, he said.

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Teni, Jaywon, others thrill fans as Funmi Ayinke launches album “The Journey”

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Teni

It was a superlative afternoon of kid’s glove reception, music and fun as fans and lovers of music were treated to heartwarming performances from Nigerian singers, Teniola Apata, popularly known as Teni, Iledare Oluwajuwonlo better known as Jaywon and others at Funmi Ayinke’s debut album “The Journey” on Sunday in Ikeja, Lagos.

The event witnessed the presence of some notable personalities like the former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Shina Peller, the publisher of Ovation International, Bashorun Dele Momodu, royal fathers and others who all took part in the launching of the 15-track album titled, The Journey.

The 16-track album features talented and multiple award-winning acts such as Tunde TDot of Styl Plus fame, popular comic act-cum-singer, Klint D Drunk, Magnito, and legendary singer, Chief Ebenezer Obey.

‘The Journey’ album according to the brains behind it features well-written and powerful compositions that are a strong source of motivation and inspiration to listeners, providing needed zest to those in a moment of darkness and hope for the downcast.

FunmiAyinke noted that all the 15 songs were carefully composed and written with the hope that they heal the mind, body, and soul of everyone that listens.

Speaking on the album, the multi-talented Funmi Ayinke, who also doubles as the founder of Funmi Ayinke Records and Funmi Ayinke Humanity Foundation (FHF), said the body of work was inspired by her desire to pass a strong message of hope and motivation to her listeners.

“I decided on the album after taking a deep reflection on how I can impact the larger society aside from what I do at the Funmi Ayinke Humanity Foundation (FHF). Then the inspiration to sing hit me. It was at the time that I decided to write the songs before hitting the studios to pour out my soul on the songs. The album is a mix of inspirational and soulful soft music that was well produced and mastered to delight my listeners,” she said.

On her choice of features on the album, Funmi Ayinke said, “I grew up listening to Chief Ebenezer Obey whose career has lasted multiple decades. It was a dream come through having him on a record that I intend to use to inspire a wider audience. I also featured established characters such as veteran gospel singers: Funmi Aragbaye, TDot, Magnito, and Klint D Drunk on the album.”

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