By Jemi Ekunkunbor
Mrs Ebunola Anozie, is the CEO, Care Organization Public Enlightenment (C. O. P. E) . In commemoration of the annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month, COPE in collaboration with Access Bank, hosted members of the COPE Breast cancer survivor support group to a treat at the spa. Mrs Anozie took time out to answer a few questions on the dreaded breast cancer, how she has been coping with all the emotions that go with it.
How has life been in cancer advocacy?
It’s been an interesting one; it’s been a joyful experience more like a roller coaster. Sometimes, I lose some, but when I see a survivor who has the will to live, I go the extra mile for her because, what we preach is the will to live. Some people actually say I live my life for cancer patients and survivors, yes I do. It gives me joy because they appreciate what I am doing, they are always smiling, happy to be with me and I am happy to be with them also. I see that I give them that support that they need. C. O. P. E. has been in existence in the last 22 years, but it hasn’t been an easy journey. I don’t see problems, I just face challenges and I thank God for that. So, my life has been a wonderful one, positive and negative; sometimes I lose a patient and that makes me sad.
I have one sponsor who said to me that I just don’t understand how you cope especially when they die. When you do your best, you just leave the rest to God and let him do his will. The reason we always preach early detection Is because, it gives you the opportunity to have a second opinion and you are able to choose the kind of treatment you want and as such, you have a better opportunity of surviving. At times, you can even save that breast and treatment is also cheaper. We have a lot of them here because they presented early. Some late but God has intervened. They are taking their treatment and they are living positively. So I’m always very happy. At times, moral might be low but I don’t allow the low to have upper hand.
Over the years would you say patients are presenting early now?
It’s getting better, women are presenting early. Unfortunately, the hospitals are not helping out. When they detect early and go to the hospitals, the doctors defer their treatment; by the time they now get treatment t, stage one becomes stage three or stage four. That is why we are clamoring for a comprehensive cancer center where a cancer patient will not have to queue with patients with minor ailments to see the doctor. Cancer is not something you toy with, the more you wait, the more the cancer cells grow and spread. Some are very aggressive, so you can imagine if you have to wait for months or even a year before you are attend to.
Is the private sector not doing anything?
Cancer is a huge thing. Let us even have a public private partnership because if you leave government alone, they will make a mess of it. People are willing to pay but we don’t have tools. The machine they have here keeps breaking down because of power outage. We have a lot to do we have not even scratched the surface at all.
What do you advocate?
Let government give us a comprehensive cancer center and please let women come in early. Once we have good doctors and a place that patients can go, People would continue to present early and cancer would not be a death sentence as some see it now. Detect it early and start treatment. It’s not to detect early and then, you go and start praying that a miracle will take happen. Get the treatment.
What are the stereotypical beliefs that prevent people from accessing treatment early?
Illiteracy is number one, fear of the unknown and taboos. Some will say they won’t come back with two breasts in their next world if it is removed. There are some who go to church and say their pastor has laid hands on them whereas, when their pastor is ill, he goes to see a doctor immediately. We have those who’d say it’s not their portion. I don’t know whose portion it is. People say all sorts of things.
One thing I know is that, as one grows older, one is at risk of certain things. The body is not like a car that you can make new again. The only thing is we need to exercise, some of us don’t exercise, we don’t eat good food, we are not conscious of what we eat. Another snag is that genetically modified organisms that we use in planting our crops now, those things have a lot of effect. There Is a lot to talk about when it comes to cancer; sedentary lifestyle is an issue. Some people are so lazy that they can’t do anything for themselves, they can’t even walk. So we need to exercise, sleep well and have a heart of forgiveness. You must be bale to forgive and let go. Stop bearing malice. It’s toxic to the body.
Why did you choose to give this treat to these women?
We do it every year. This is not the only thing Access Bank is doing. They are trying to see that women get the necessary help to reduce the mortality rate. They want women to present early and those who have it to live longer. It’s a CSR by the bank. It’s a day out, have fun, have the massage. That therapy is part of the comprehensive therapy that cancer patients need because by the time you have gone through surgery and all that, you have to relax your muscles. So that massage is important, steam bath is important for you to rejuvenate and let your body come alive again. Going through surgery, you’ve had a part of your body stitched, it becomes stiff if you don’t exercise. You saw how Miss Della taught them different ways to exercise. So they had so much fun in the pool, nice Shawarma with vegetables and then water to drink. So, it’s very important that the mind is kept positive because once the mind is negative, everything inside you will be negative. But if the mind is positive, you’d see your whole countenance will be bright and cheerful. You have to take control of the mind. You are your own vessel. You may not be in control of the storm or the natural disaster but because you are the captain of your own vessel, once anything happens, you are the one that is going to know how to stir that ship in the direction you want to go. You can control your life that way. So don’t allow anybody control your life. As the captain of your vessel, you can take action when there is a problem. So don’t let people push you. Some people will tell you there is one herbalist somewhere because they don’t have money, or that there is one pastor somewhere that fire Is coming out of his mouth, he can do this and that. It is only God who can do it. Therefore, you have to let God take control.