7 Nigerian Women Share Their Breast Cancer Story

November 2, 2020

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer in women after lung cancer. It not only affects the patient but their families as well. I spoke to some women who know people who have survived breast cancer and some who have lost people to breast cancer and this is their story. 


When I was two years old, my aunt found a benign lump in her breast. The doctors advised her to take things easy so she stopped driving. About 7-8 years later, she was diagnosed with cancer. She only told me after she got a mastectomy All my years of watching Medical TV shows did not prepare me for how real the whole thing felt. With chemotherapy and treatment, my aunt got better.


My aunt, a retired nurse, found a lump in her breast and didn’t tell anyone. Someone took her to a traditional home where she was told it was a spiritual attack. When things got out of hand, she reached out to my mother, who took her for a mammogram. She moved in with us so mum could take care of her. I remember her losing all her hair and a lot of weight. Her skin, palms, and sole became very dark. She was in so much pain. My mother had to give her an injection from time to time to keep her blood count up. Unfortunately, she died 10 days after her surgery due to negligence. Her dressing wasn’t done properly and there were maggots too.


My mom wasn’t literate and none of us lived with her, so when she had breast cancer, she didn’t tell anyone. According to her, she felt pain in her breast, she went to a general hospital and they referred her to a teaching hospital. The staff wanted her to come with her kids, at this point, she ran away and didn’t tell us. She endured the pain until 2004 when it became unbearable. When she told us, we took her to a doctor, by then, it was a stage 4 metastatic cancer. She went through chemo hoping they would do surgery but they were just managing her pain. In November, the doctors finally told her no surgery was being planned. From there, she seemed to shut down her own system and moved to an end-stage. She died in the second week of December 2004. Her body ravaged by cancer.


Two women in my family have had it. My aunt who managed it for 15 years, she’s passed on now and my grandmother who’s currently battling it. My grandmother found a lump while having a shower in 2008. Hers started out as axillary lymphadenopathy – which essentially is enlarged lymph nodes on the armpit. We’re literally in the car on the way to her 8th chemo cycle. I’ve been at this for such a long time, that her oncologist asked me to come and intern with him.


December 2019, my mom found a lump in her breast. She was diagnosed with cancer in April 2020. She was puzzled because 10 years ago, she had a mastectomy and thought it was gone for good. After having a back and forth with the LUTH oncology department about her files, she was able to get a consultation session with a private oncologist who charged three times as much. They put her on chemotherapy and she is expected to do four cycles before she is eligible for surgery. Before and during chemotherapy, she had terrible skin reactions but now, she is doing better and living more intentionally.


My aunt who is an unemployed single mother of one was diagnosed with cancer. She has been very secretive and gets defensive when asked about it. After convincing her to see a doctor, she refused to tell anyone about her diagnosis, taking agbo – local medicine – instead and saying this is how God probably wants her to die. I had to speak to the doctor who advised she removes the whole breast to avoid the cancer spreading. She has refused to do this. Recently, she said she found a hospital willing to do 6 months of Chemo for 180k but I don’t believe her.


March 2019, a few months before my mother turned 52, she found a lump in her breast while dressing up for work. My mum went to the hospital where she was examined and scheduled for a lumpectomy. The results showed a malignant tumour in her breast which was spreading fast. She was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and was told she needed an urgent mastectomy so she could begin chemotherapy.

Thing is, after her mastectomy, another examination was conducted on the breast removed and there were no traces of a malignant tumour. We had several tests done and the results were the same. By now, my mum has already done two rounds of chemo. The doctors advised she continue treatment so they don’t any chances. By August 2019, my mom had undergone 6 rounds of chemo. But this year August, she has been declared cancer-free.

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