Kenya: Cancer Warrior – a Bundle of Joy in the Middle of Gloom


Lucky Ndanu was only 23 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The 33-year-old cancer warrior, mother, data analyst and project manager talks to Nation.co.ke about her journey.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February of 2008, a year after experiencing symptoms related to the disease.

In early 2007, I had noticed a lump on my right breast but I kept ignoring it because it was painless. I didn’t think it was anything serious. I was only 22.

However, a few months to completing my college studies, I started experiencing some symptoms that pushed me to consult a doctor.

The lump had grown and would shift whenever I tried to trace it. My breast also became sensitive to touch and the veins on them became more visible. I would also feel spasms of pain originating from my underarm, all the way to the right breast.

DIAGNOSIS

Immediately after writing my final paper in December 2007, I went to see a clinician, who said that it was normal for young women to sometimes get lumps, but he still sent me for a mammogram to rule out any disease or medical condition.

My first consultation was in a clinic, but I decided to take the results to a bigger hospital. The doctor there ordered a series of more tests, including a biopsy.

When I went back for my results, the doctor insisted that I should be accompanied by an adult. I wondered why he insisted on that yet I had been going for all tests and appointments alone. And I didn’t think I was suffering from any serious disease.

Due to his insistence, I came back with my mother a few days later. I clearly remember the look on her face when the doctor said that the tests confirmed I had cancer. My mother broke down, while I was just there smiling.

I could not comprehend what he had just said because I had never thought of the possibility of cancer, even while I was undergoing the tests.

So I sat there smiling at my doctor, oblivious of the weight of the diagnosis. The doctor took his time to explain the disease as well as the treatment options I should consider.

He said my cancer was hormone receptive, meaning a lot of oestrogen in my body triggered the disease. I had two options, either undergo a mastectomy and hormonal treatment for five years, or undergo a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy, radiotherapy and the hormonal treatment.

My doctor believed I was in denial and he immediately sent me to a counsellor.

We set an appointment for a week later so he could consult other cancer specialists on the best treatment option. This one week was also meant to help me come to terms with the diagnosis, which it did; as well as give me the opportunity to seek further counselling.

LOSING MY BREAST

At the next appointment, my doctor advised on the mastectomy and hormonal treatment because the cancer was still in its early stages.

This option, I was told, was also valuable in preventing reoccurrence of the cancer.

We went back home to think about the advice. The doctor had asked us to take the shortest time possible to decide on the method of treatment to stem the spread of the cancer.

It was a difficult time for my family. We needed to settle on a treatment option.

We consulted two of my relatives who are doctors, and they advised us to seek a second opinion, which we did. The results were the same, and the doctors we consulted also advised on the mastectomy.

It took a while for me to come to terms with the idea of losing a breast. But we had no other option. It was either that, or I lose my life to cancer.

The surgery was scheduled and done in May 2008, the year I turned 23. After the surgery, I was put on hormonal therapy, which involved taking tablets every day for five years. The medicine came with side effects, including hot flashes, mood swings and general weakness. It was however all worth it as I was given a clean bill of health afterward. I have been cancer free since!

It was a tough time for me having to accept the fact that I had cancer and rearranging my life to fit into the society after my losing my breast.

It took a lot of energy, prayer, encouragement and counselling, but I pulled through it.

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

After my surgery and hormonal treatment, I had a positive experience. I got pregnant and had baby girl, who is now a healthy, bubbly and intelligent five-year-old. My daughter is my miracle.

When I was receiving treatment, my family cared for me and gave me financial support. My mother was a super mum during my treatment, which took a toll on her emotionally and financially. But her support never wavered and because of that I never missed an appointment, or taking drugs, or felt unsupported or alone. My extended family also played a big role in supporting us both financially and emotionally.

Sometimes fear would creep in over cancer, especially while I was breastfeeding. I breastfed my baby on one breast until she was two years old. On many occasions, my breast would get lumpy and painful. There was a time the lumps really scared me that I went to consult my doctor. He diagnosed it as mastitis–an inflammation of the breast tissue due to infection–and said that it was normal.

Surviving cancer has made me more aware of my body and alert to changes. I have been going for annual routine check-ups since I completed the treatment. My doctor is always on my speed dial in case that I experience anything.

Routine screenings are very important for everyone. Women and young girls should also learn to self-examine themselves so they can note any changes early.”

Fact Box- According to the Mayo Clinic

Mastitis – an inflammation of breast tissue that sometimes involves an infection. It results in breast pain, swelling, warmth, redness, fever and chills. Most commonly affects women who are breastfeeding.

Oestrogen – hormones produced by the body that help develop and maintain female organs.

Lumpectomy – surgery to remove cancer or other abnormal tissue from the breast.

Mastectomy – surgery to remove all breast tissue as a way to treat or prevent breast cancer.

The Cancer Warrior story series tells the stories of cancer survivors. To share your cancer story, email [email protected]

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Publish date : 2018-11-01 15:05:26

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