What She Said: After Surviving Cervical Cancer, I Just Want Peace

June 9, 2021

Navigating life as a woman in the world today is interesting. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their experiences on everything from sex to politics right here. This is Zikoko’s What She Said.

The subject of this week’s What She Said, is a 25-year-old woman who has been through so much and would just like to be at peace for the rest of her life. She talks about how unlucky she’s been with friends, her tense relationship with her mother, beating cervical cancer, and how therapy helped her figure out life. 

What’s your earliest memory of your childhood? 

When I fell into a gutter and broke my leg because I was trying not to get caught playing with the neighbours’ children. I was five. 

Why didn’t you want to get caught playing with them? 

My parents are weird. They didn’t want us to have any friends. My mum, especially, thought the neighbours were witches, so she didn’t want us to play with them.

Damn. Does that mean you didn’t have friends? 

I actually didn’t. I was shy, had social anxiety and was too terrified of my parents to try making any. Then I started university, and the friends I had were not that great. 

I got into a private university in Benin City when I was just 13, which is quite early, so I tried to keep my head down and focus on my studies. 

My friends, however, constantly made fun of me. They picked on my weight, which eventually made me anorexic. Looking back, I see that we were all insecure children trying to find our way, but I don’t think I’ll ever forgive them. 

Wow. They must have been really awful. 

Yes. They did so many bad things to me. They put weed in my food once, and I blacked out. When I woke up, I was naked in bed with one of my friends. She might have assaulted me; I’m not sure. I just remember my nipples being sore and wet, nothing more. I was only 13.

The second time they drugged me, I was in my second year. They were experimenting with a random pill and were too scared to try it themselves, so they put it in my drink and only told me after I drank it. All I remember was being very happy and floaty and then waking up in a hotel room. 

I finally snapped when one of them raped my boyfriend. 

I’m sorry, what? 

I was 16 then. I had a boyfriend whom I was happy with, but one of my friends wasn’t happy about it. She told my boyfriend she would be better than me in bed because I’m frigid, unfeeling and like firewood. She eventually drugged him, raped him, made a video, and then showed the video to me. 

When I confronted her, she said she was tired of seeing me get men’s attention though I hardly socialised or made an effort. 

After the entire incident, I cut off the entire friendship group. I also broke up with him. I think it’s one of the saddest things in my past, one of the things I’m most embarrassed about. 

So all of this coupled with the fact that I had an eating disorder, anxiety and severe depression that was making me skip exams, my parents decided to transfer me to a university in Uganda to finish medical school. 

Wait, how did your parents go from “no friends” to “let’s send our daughter to a new country”? 

My parents are complicated. My mother is a mix of feminism and misogyny. She’s all for getting your own education, but get it so your husband will be proud of you.

She was the one that pushed me to travel to Uganda when I wanted to drop out of med school. When I wanted to drop out of med school, she instead brought up schooling in Uganda. She had been bragging to her friends about me being in medical school and didn’t want to deal with the embarrassment. 

Also, she was in Tanzania, so she wasn’t too far from me. 

I thought your family lived in Nigeria? 

My family moves around a lot. For most of my time in medical school, my mum was perambulating around East Africa: Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, a truly disastrous stint in Uganda, then to Burundi.

I’m pretty sure my dad is in Ghana right now, but a few weeks ago, he was in South Africa. My brother is in Cotonou; I’m in Uganda. My sister is the only one still in Nigeria. 

Wow. What made your mum’s stint in Uganda disastrous?

She got me in an arranged engagement with an already married man, and when I refused, she disowned me. 

Excuse me? 

I have trouble confronting my mum. When she and the man set up the engagement, I just sat there. I didn’t want to cause a conflict, so I just let it go on. It went on for four months. I had seen him just twice and spoken to him for about an hour. I don’t know how my mum expected me to marry someone I had just spoken to for an hour. 

One Saturday morning, his wife sent a text to inform me that she was married to the man. She also mentioned she had gotten three abortions for him because he said he never wanted kids. I found that strange because a few weeks before, he got the spare key to my house from my mother, showed up without my permission and demanded we start having children immediately. 

My friend and I decided to search social media for pictures of him and his wife, and we found some. I compiled a whole folder and sent it to my mum. She told me his wife was just jealous, and I should carry on with the engagement. 

How did you get out of it?

My mum set up a meeting with all three of us. Me, her and the man. She told me that she’d already told people I was getting married, so breaking it off would be a disgrace to her. 

I yelled at her, she yelled at me, he yelled at me for yelling at her. He told me I disappointed him, and I told him he was possessed to think I cared about what he thought. 

She disowned me then I moved houses and did not inform anyone where the house was. For like two months, I was living free in my own peace, until she randomly sent me money one day. She called me to find out if I had gotten the alert and said she missed me. 

We never had a proper discussion about what happened during those months or what caused her to make that decision. 

Wow. That was a lot. What was schooling in Uganda like? 

For one, there’s nobody out to get you. If you read your books, you pass. My favourite part of it, however, is the freedom. In Uganda, I have learnt to see people first and religion and tribe last. 

Second favourite thing is how I was able to finally discover my sexuality. Uganda was where I finally figured out women and went nuts. Uganda was my first time being really away from my family, and I loved it. It helped me come to terms with all that had happened in my past. 

How did it do that? 

My school gave us medical insurance, and it came with four free psych visits per month.  I went a couple of times, and the therapist forced me to face a lot about myself. 

Therapy is great for me. It’s given me helpful coping tools to deal with my harmful behaviours, and I love that I get to talk about things and get them out of my head.

The process, however, is very painful. I hate it. The past is painful and addressing it in therapy made me realise that a lot of the things I do are a result of being repeatedly traumatised by the people I trust.

I recently discovered that I was circumcised. Apparently, when I was younger, I stayed with an aunt while my parents travelled. One night while I slept, she cut off my clit. Because of that, I’m always tense in my sleep, as if I’m expecting to be attacked. Everything is a trauma response for me. From the way I walk, to the way I sleep. The first week of therapy left me really depressed. 

I am so sorry. Do you ever think of returning to Nigeria? 

I was supposed to move back in 2020, but because of Corona and the fact that I had cervical cancer again, I couldn’t come back. 

Cervical cancer again?

In 2018, I went for a pap smear and noticed I had a precancerous cervical lesion. It got treated, and I moved on. 

Then in late 2019, I had a couple of bad periods that lasted about two weeks and were very heavy. It was so bad, I fainted. So, I went in for a pap smear. Imagine my surprise when they told me my lesion was back and this time it was full-blown cancer. 

In 2020, I got chemotherapy and a trachelectomy. I’m still in recovery but got the all-clear from my oncologist. 

I’m so sorry. Do you ever regret not dropping out of medical school? 

No, my job is fun as hell. I am an obstetrician and a gynaecologist, but I love obstetrics more. 

Do you want any children?

I actually can’t stand children. I’ve seen far too many women die bringing kids into the world. These women have already gotten pregnant; the least I can do is actually help them get the children out alive. 

What keeps you going? 

I’m not a very hopeful person, and 2020 took a lot out of me, so I just want peace. One day, I want the inside of my head to be quiet. No arguments between my self-esteem and my brain. Just quiet. 

That’s not to say I don’t have little sparks of joy in my life. They’re not even little. More like explosions of joy. My blood sisters and the sisters I made by choice give me joy. 

Whenever babies take their first breath, every successful cesarean, successful vagina delivery, managed miscarriage. Every morning when I run up the same four flights of stairs I used to be wheeled up for chemo and blood transfusions without being out of breath. These things give me joy. 

I’m in a relationship now, and they make me so fucking happy. These are the things I love and look forward to. 

For more stories like this, check out our #WhatSheSaid and for more women like content, please click here

Itohan Esekheigbe

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

July 21, 2020

Preparing for motherhood is a whirl of nerves, hopes, and high expectations. However, there are a lot of things books, documentaries, and other resources do not quite prepare mothers for. 5 mothers share with us what 9 months of pregnancy did not prepare them for. Fati I experienced uterine contraction backache, sore nipples, lack of […]

February 11, 2021

The last time I went down a google rabbit hole, it led to me discovering and renaming some very interesting sex positions. Now, I found very interesting beauty products while stuck in another google rabbit hole, and I will rename them and guess what they actually do. 1) The many faced brush Why? Are you […]


Now on Zikoko

June 13, 2021

What does it mean to be a man? Surely, it’s not one thing. It’s a series of little moments that add up. Man Like is a weekly Zikoko series documenting these moments to see how it adds up. It’s a series for men by men, talking about men’s issues. We try to understand what it means to […]

June 13, 2021

June 12 Protest: Yesterday, after months of planning, Nigerians took to the streets to protest against bad governance, abuse of human rights, worsening insecurity, and other forms of maladministration and mishandling of democracy in the country. Coincidentally, this protest happened one week after the Nigerian government’s sudden and unconstitutional Twitter ban. Yesterday was also Nigeria’s […]

June 12, 2021

Sex Life is an anonymous Zikoko weekly series that explores the pleasures, frustrations and excitement of sex in the lives of Nigerians. The subject of today’s Sex Life is a heterosexual 25-year-old man who became obsessed with penises when he realised his penis was small. He talks about how having a small penis affects his […]

Recommended Quizzes

March 24, 2020

While we know that a lot of the best Nigerian artists deservedly have fans across generations, that won’t stop us from attempting to guess how old you are based on your taste in Nigerian music. So, take this quiz to see if we got it right:

October 30, 2019

Kemi Adetiba’s King of Boys movie got a lot of things right, especially casting, so yes, it was a monster hit. Now, we know you may not have put much thought to this, but the personalities of some of the characters closely match yours, and we would like to help you find the perfect match. […]

November 12, 2019

Are you a single pringle, stuck in a complicated situationship or happily married to the love of your life? This quiz is here to guess your current relationship status, and as you know, Zikoko quizzes are incredibly accurate (don’t quote us). So, give a shot:

November 7, 2019

These days, everyone is always talking about how much sex they’re getting, or how little sex they’re getting, or how disgusting sex is etc. There’s just so much talk about sex, it’s almost impossible to know who’s lying and who’s telling the truth. In anticipation of our new series about the sex lives of young […]

More from Her

June 11, 2021

How we start our day usually has a paramount effect on how the rest of our day goes. When you love a woman or want to move to a woman you like, it is important you send her beautiful messages to put her in the right mood. Here’s a list of helpful ways on how […]

June 11, 2021

We have written about some of the ways the Twitter ban affects Nigerians. Here’s a list of the ways the ban affects Nigerian women. It will affect their access to: 1. Learning opportunities Twitter has always been a source of information to many women. In an article published yesterday, some women talked about how they […]

June 10, 2021

Feminism is a diverse movement that aims to liberate women and other oppressed groups. Each feminist’s path is different from the next. In this article, I asked eight Nigerian women why they became feminists, and here’s what they had to say:  Kay, 26 I was a feminist even before I knew what the word meant. […]

consequences of teen pregnancies
June 10, 2021

I read a lot of books growing up about the consequences of teen pregnancies and it was always interesting to me how teenagers were treated without a care in such conversations. Nothing about how they feel or how it happened and how to prevent it — just age-old fear-mongering. In this article, four Nigerian women […]

Nigerian female lawyers
June 9, 2021

This week is one of those times where we, as a country, wonder if the constitution is simply a suggestion. Many lawyers have complained of studying and practising law in a lawless state. Like with most issues, women’s experiences take a unique form. In this article, nine Nigerian female lawyers talk about practising law in […]

partners on Twitter
June 8, 2021

Amongst the other things Twitter is to people — the source of information and access to opportunities, it is also a place to find the love of your life. In this article, eight Nigerian women talk about meeting their partners on Twitter.  Lili  My partner and I started talking on Twitter in 2016. He tweeted […]

June 4, 2021

Count your lingerie wearing days over, because the rise of the wrapper is here. Here are five reasons why wrapper is better than lingerie. 1) It is easier to remove Wrappers are called free to wear for a reason. No hindrance, no obstruction. Just one tug and everything comes off. Lingerie on the other hand […]

Working from home
June 4, 2021

Working from home is now a norm in Nigeria, thanks or no thanks to the pandemic. However, as smoothly as you imagine it, it comes with its own set of challenges. In this article, I asked five Nigerian women to share their experiences working from home. Here’s what they said:  Ife I am like the […]


Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.