World Cancer Day was marked on the 4th of February. I thought to write something about it then, but at the time thought better not to.
This is because had my family been twitter, cancer would be the trending topic. I didn’t want a situation where members of my family will link my post to the events happening within it.
After making that decision however,I couldn’t just take my mind off Cancer. Though I have not been personally affected by it, I’ve known people on a personal and impersonal levels, who lived with it, died by it, and are currently survivors or have just been diagnosed with it.
My hesitation initially, in putting this down especially for the World’s Cancer Day was because a relative of mine was recently diagnosed with one of the Cancers. The news of it totally dampened her as well as the rest of the family, especially seeing that she’d lived most of her life battling one form of health challenge or the other.
From my part of the wood in Africa, Cancer used to be taboo. Many people may have died by it, but as we usually say, ‘what you don’t know cannot kill you’, hence many Cancer related deaths could’ve been associated with other disease conditions.
African society, especially the Nigerian is quite religious, and the tendency to relate afflictions to sins, the devil or even enemies is high, sometimes standing in the way of the afflicted seeking medical help, or even continuing treatment after diagnosis has been made.
Cancer is no longer a taboo, but people seldom talk about it, like talking about it could make one become immediately afflicted. You will hear most Nigerians add the words, ‘G-d forbid’ immediately after saying the words even in reference to their enemies.
There are now more information out there, and though they remain inadequate there are more centres, especially in cities, where accurate diagnosis are made, what still remains a challenge are centres where the scourge can be effectively managed to ensure better prognosis for the afflicted and survivors.
This is responsible for the capital flight Nigeria is experiencing in favour of India with medical tourism, especially for the middle and low income earners, while the rich prefer to go to research institutes in the West and Israel. Lately, people have begun shunning India as it seemed that those who’d done their surgeries there had lower survival rates compared to those who’d gone to the United States or the medically advanced nations of Europe like the United Kingdom and Germany.
One Prostate Cancer survivor told me that though it was less expensive to do the treatment in India, he decided to go to the United States seeing that the Americans wouldn’t be in a haste to try something new for ethical reasons, compared to the Indians to whom patients could be ‘Guinea Pigs’ at short notice, without adequate consultation, or is done in such a way as to coerce the patient to accept the doctor’s point of view.
The Israeli’s are also open to trying new things, but do so taking care to ensure that as little harm is done to the patient, than the free-for-all that you’d find in India, especially when it comes to medical tourism where jurisdiction should medicolegal situations arise works more in favour of the Indian centres, than for the foreign patient.
Nigerian centres have not also fared badly especially when the lesions are detected early. I know of a woman on a street where I used to live who is a Breast Cancer Survivor, she had everything done right here in Nigeria from Diagnosis to Treatment to post-Treatment modalities. Though she moved from the very tall and beautiful woman I used to know, to the emaciated, low haircut one once her treatment started, but she survived, she survived and lives to tell the tale. I do not know her personal story but she’s regained her bounce and seems to have put that horrible past so behind her now. Again, she achieved all of that right here in Nigeria, infact at a General Hospital (secondary health institution in Nigeria), and not at a Teaching Hospital.
I lost one of my in-laws to Breast Cancer, though she hadn’t been an in-law then as her house served as the rendezvous for my future wife and I. I wouldn’t know if she discovered hers early but at the time I waltzed into her life she was battling recurrence and metastasis. It was a really bad case, and though she would die a year after I met her, she was very instrumental to the life I now share with my wife.
Many years ago, I saw a young man with an Oral Cancer at the very late stage. His mother had apparently rejected medical intervention for prayers at different churches and by the time they turned up at the Teaching Hospital in Lagos, the condition had worsened and prognosis become very poor. I don’t know how that story ended, but I wasn’t happy at the way he was managed by his handlers, especially his mother (I never saw his father).
The issue of faith came up again recently and I found myself helpless in bringing about this change of attitude. I do not have any problem with faith. I believe there’s a thin line between ‘faith’ and ‘testing’ YAHWEH. Even the Saviour when he was tempted of the devil (as recorded in the Bible book of Matthew Chapter 4 Verses 6-7), and asked to jump from a height, pointing to the fact that His Father will give HIS angels ”charge over you…they will bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone”. YAHSHUA’s response was, ” Again, it is written, ‘You shall not *test* YAHWEH, your Elohim’.
People of faith must know when to submit themselves to their doctor for medical check ups regularly. There’s nothing wrong with praying while undergoing treatment, surgeries, radio- and chemotherapy.
Cancer is now with us, Africans and Nigerians in particular must take cognizance of this, and to work towards limiting it’s effect in our midst. The greatest weapon against Cancer is actually the simplest.
Of utmost importance include lifestyle changes, such as kicking habits like smoking, alcohol consumption and over indulging in fast foods while exercising to combat obesity.
Though most cancers (save for those via infections like Human Papilloma Virus, HPV causing Cervical Cancer) do not really have particular causative agents, they do however have predisposing factors, and these are what we should actually avoid and hope for the best.
This is to a Cancer-Free World!