Changing My Outlook on Life
My name is Ngozi Ejedimu. I am a lawyer living in Lagos, Nigeria. I was 39-years-old when I was diagnosed with Stage 3 triple negative breast cancer. I am the founder of The Judah Foundation For Breast Cancer and I manage @whatcancernaija, a page I created after treatment to demystify breast cancer, inspire hope and make a difference through hugs and gift bags. In everything give thanks pretty much sums up my mission. I am married with two teenagers and a very active 4-year-old.
It didn’t start out that way, I never would have imagined that one day I would be having arguments with people who have wrong notions or information on breast cancer. It’s personal to me because some people feel that staying under a light cures cancer. Yes, that was what a friend thought.
Someone sent me a message on Instagram that she wanted to come to my hospital for a mammogram and I laughed and told her I was not a medical doctor, but a lawyer.
I had always imagined the title of my book would be “An Evening in October,” the month I found the lump in 2016. I have noticed I can be a bit forgetful, probably side effects from chemotherapy, but there are some events you just never forget.
Cancer and humour don’t look like words that should be in the same sentence. I was 39 when I found a lump on my right breast. It was hard and immovable, I had a biopsy done and it was the longest wait of my life, 10 days to be exact. There are some situations that are out of your hands. Waiting for an important result that could change your life was one and yes patience is a virtue because that is all you have at that moment.
The results came back and it was cancer. I had a mass in my right breast and the cancer had spread to my right axillary lymph node. Mammogram was done on Nov. 14, 2016 in India. The next day, I had a right MRM (modified radical mastectomy) with a chemo port inserted on Nov. 15, 2016. Histopathology suggested invasive duct carcinoma Stage 3 with metastasis to axillary lymph node.
My first chemo cycle was done on Nov. 30, 2016. I continued chemo in December back in Nigeria and finished in April 2017. I had 16 rounds of chemo. The first four were two weeks apart and the last 12 were weekly. I was diagnosed as ER negative: PR negative: HER 2 negative (triple negative). I discovered the lump at 39.I haven’t had a reconstruction.
My humorous moments I will confess were during chemotherapy and with my scale, whom I will call Lucille. She has been retired after eight years of dedicated service. I noticed at some point that I had started adding weight during treatment, I was worried, but too ashamed to tell anyone, that of all the things that could be bothering me at that moment, it was the fact that I was getting fat compared to trying to focus on getting done with treatment.
I can remember waiting until there was no one around and slowly crawling out of bed weak and tired to get on Lucille. I used to chuckle to myself, hoping that no one would ever catch me. I didn’t know it was the steroids causing the weight gain. So you could imagine my joy when my oncologist told me why I was adding weight. I was so relieved because it was like a mystery I had kept wanting to solve. Why was I adding weight and my diet and eating habit hadn’t changed?
There was the day I looked at my nail and it was red and I thought it was bleeding from under the nail bed. I remember thinking to myself: "No one told me that would be a side effect of chemo." I went into panic mode. Guess what? It was the imprint from my red-hot lipstick. I had probably rubbed my fingers against my mouth at some point that day.
Sweet relief. I laughed my head off that day.
Surviving breast cancer became fun for me when I realised I would be happier if I made the best of it, so I changed my outlook to life.
I started calling myself “the 1 boob chic” and demystifying breast cancer to encourage other women. I can’t mention cancer and not talk about my faith and God. God has a sense of humour, who knew HE would use breast cancer to bring me out of my shell and in the process make me a "pictureholic," if there is a word like that. My kids can’t understand me. I can make them stop the car to take pictures in the weirdest places. I have promised myself that as part of the journey and breast cancer awareness, I will use my pictures to show women before and afters of living through breast cancer. So yes there is humour in breast cancer, the type you would understand if you give thanks in everything.