Short Story

MY INNER ME By Ummuh Amaanah

Written by Bada Yusuf Amoo

One thing I fear most in life is cancer.  Actually, I think most people are scared too, coming in contact with it has been so depressing, it is weird.  I considered myself as the healthiest person on earth. I rarely fall sick and my sickness has often been malaria, maybe once in 6 years so being diagnosed with a rare type of cancer brought me down to my knees and hit me hard on the face.

Among all the challenges of life, I never had the “why me?” I guess I’m just a realist, I believe that when shitty thing happen to you and that you just have to deal with it. However, in the recent time, I have cried buckets and my positivism traveled in waves. I’m hoping to float through the entire process.

As a new student in the university, if someone had told me a month ago what I would be going through this period even before tests and my first exam started,  I wouldn’t have believed it. But it’s amazing how I found the courage to do it. I was diagnosed on 25th of June 2018 and I hope by 25th June 2019, this will all be a bad dream.

Yes, I had some of the normal symptoms,  a lump on my palm which I really didn’t care about until I started having lymph nodes, I mean cancer was the last thing on my mind. It wasn’t even on my list at all. I was as healthy as I can be. In fact I had put on weight.

I went to the hospital at Ibadan with lump issues on my palm but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. If not for my parents persisting and showing concern, you know Nigerian parents now, “how can you have a painless lump and not tell us about it”, my parents query.  To be sincere, I noticed the lump around September 2017 but not until February 2018 did I begin to feel concerned but still with that, cancer was not in my mind.

I went to the doctors four times or more before I was booked for surgery to remove the lump. Unfortunately, it was clashing with studies since I had just been giving admission into the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University. I missed most of my lectures as I have to travel to Ibadan from Ife two to three times a week which made me feel really pathetic for my parents for having a daughter like me. I was so worried I would put them in financial crisis but Alhamdullah, things having been working out for us.  Without much ado, I was diagnosed with Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a kind of aggressive cancer that was discovered after there had been some complicated abnormalities on the palm and tests.

I really don’t know what I thought when my mum broke the news. I replay it back in my head and they are just words. To be honest, all I wanted to do was to be alone and cry my eyes out, which I did. I was numb and didn’t really want to know any more right then.  I even struggled to pray, missed Solats, not because I blame God, NO! He surely have a reason for doing this and I hope to ask him in the hereafter why I have to go through these life-taking challenges at such a young age.  Mum taught me not to query Allah, to be strong and prayerful and to make Allah my first and last resort and I’m doing just that, Alhamdullilah for such wonderful parents.

They told me I would need to take some months off, since I would have to do some diagnosis to know what stage I am. As a self confessed focused and happy student, taking some month off seemed an impossible idea. That was the second time I cried, when being told I had to be off school, I had just resumed as a 100 level language student but I have no choice than to recline to the medical rules like a snail to its shell.

Since I have started visiting the University College Hospital (UCH) in Ibadan, I have had more tests and I have been really diagnosed with a lump on my breast.  At the point when the doctor said it is a difficult case and will have to amputate two of my fingers alongside the swollen palm,  I had a mental breakdown,  but it only lasted for about 20 hours.

I searched about it on the internet and researched about each stages and it was stage four that really hit me hard. The risk of infertility is 20% after going through chemo stage. Subhanallah is all that remains on my mouth now. I did many terrifying tests and scans, various surgeries. I have been placed on oxygen and have been to heaven’s gate. I think it was not my time.

I remember being conscious during the surgery even though I was put on anesthetic, and in pain, they were stitching my palm then and it was really painful, then I tried to speak, to tell them I could not endure the pain, my voice was lost, I struggled within me trying to utter a sound, I couldn’t, then I thought of raising my hand, it felt numb. My breath was not normal anymore, I even struggled to breath.  I was fighting with all my strength, all my inner power to move, to talk, and to raise a finger, it was all in vain. Worst of all, I could hear the doctors voices.

My sister cried when she entered the room and saw me lifeless.  I could hear everything but just couldn’t communicate that I was awoke. What a terrifying situation! I felt locked in my own body. It was then I realized the throes of death, I thought of my parents, my friends, different kinds of imaginations were running in my brain. Will my parents ever get over my death? Moro would have no one to call whenever she’s feeling down, I bet Fridause would not be happy to have the bed all to herself.

I wouldn’t be alive to see my niece and nephew. I had not enough good deeds to get me favours in the presence of my Lord.  I was buried alive inside myself, frozen from head to toe.  Shocked kicked in and I began to sob. One of the nurses screamed, “Oh my God, she’s awake!” I replied in the silence of my mind, “of course I’m awake”. I thought I was going to die not because of the pain but because of the fear, so I tried to hold my breath so I would pass out quicker. I’m convinced that the reason some people don’t survive surgery is because they are awake during it but never live to tell the tale.

That night, when my other half was in the patient room, I was just sobbing and didn’t know who I was. I couldn’t sleep throughout, the pain was unbearable. Sometimes, till now, I have trouble sleeping with this recurring nightmare and flashback of the surgery night. No amount of consolation can surely lessen an experience as hellish as this.

I was booked for radio and Chemo Therapy at UCH. I go to the hospital three times a week for radio therapy and I was fortunate to meet nice doctors, Dr. Sharrif and the Two Alhajas. I’m still on Chemo Therapy and hoping to survive it. Amputation has been suspended for now and the swollen palm and lymph nodes reduced drastically, Alhamdullilah.

The worst thing about Chemo is the nausea and vomiting. I vomited for days and felt weak to the bones after my first Chemo. I have been struggling with it for months now and I feel like a normal person again even with an almost bald head.  I started classes and did all my missed tests with the help of a God sent lecturer in department of English. I struggled to meet up with exams which were clashing with Chemo but I did not have a choice. I could not miss a semester and become more depressed when I see my mates graduating before me.  I hope to pass excellently with Cs at least.

Alhamdulillah for my caring, supportive and prayerful family and friends also, I have been faring well. I don’t know what I’ll have done without them. They are all supporting me psychologically and financially. It so relieve me, knowing they would do anything for my survival. It’s impossible to escape challenges during one’s lifetime. It’s a test from our Lord but how you handle the situation defines who you are, if you are strong or not.

I freaked out, broke a glass. Yes, it’s okay to do that. We are nothing but humans with flesh. We bleed when we fall, we crash and break down. It’s normal to feel like giving up, to feel overwhelmed and insecure. It is okay to feel like no medicine is strong enough to cure our illness.  But all these thoughts, these feelings, last only while. I have decided to clean my tears and make plans on how to hit that challenge hard in the face.

Cancer didn’t bring me to my knees; it brought me to my Feet. I am a fighter! I will fight till I win this battle and surely with the help of God and loved ones.

About the author

Bada Yusuf Amoo

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