Where I grew up, cancer was not openly discussed.
Cancer has given me a chance to finally take control of my future and chase after my dreams. I can now focus on building life on my own terms. I have learned to be proactive and courageous enough to ask for help when I need it.
Speaking up is important and powerful. I want to help women to learn how to use their voices to save themselves because we are taught that being vulnerable is a sign of weakness, a thing of shame or handing your power to others. I am going to continue to use my voice to help women overcome obstacles and thrive. My life experience has given me the perfect foundation for that kind of work.
I am now interested in abuse, trauma and its effects on mental health. Even if there is no scientific evidence to back it up, I am convinced that my relationship contributed to the breast cancer diagnosis. Trauma can have devasting effects on the body which manifest as different conditions.
Cancer gave me my voice back
I am bolder and resilient. When I am faced withdifficult situations, I tell myself,“If cancer did not kill me, this situation will not.” I am no longer a people pleaser and taking decisions is easier and faster.
I was diagnosed in 2016 with stage 3 triple-negative breast cancer. Leaving my marriage after 23 years in 2022 after my mental health had taken a beating and moving to a new country in 2023 was one of the hardest things I had ever done. The pain and brokenness tore through my soul and with it came chest pain so intense that I thought I had a recurrence and ran to the hospital. Thankfully, it was stress from all the trauma.
Is there strength in vulnerability? Not where I come from. I was born and raised In Nigeria. Growing up as a child, you are taught to be seen and not heard, once you decide to break that norm, you are labelled as rude and with that came the mission to drown your voice and stifle your personality. What was considered rudeness? The fact that you stood up for yourself. The fact that you had a voice.
Let us move on to Adulthood, where you could not be honest and open about your feelings, because it was seen as a sign of weakness or airing your dirty linen in public
I remember the first post I put up after my breast cancer diagnosis, I deleted it out of fear.
What would people say?Was it right for people to know my business!
Why, exactly, was I announcing it to the world? I was scared and needed support.
My next post was because I realized noone was talking about breast cancer in Nigeria behind the scenes and that was where vulnerability came in, I called it the good, bad, ugly and the truth.
Talk about breast cancer was its association with death, scenes from movies where the patient looked worn down like a ghost about to melt away. Imagine my shock when I realized there was a humorous side to the breast cancer journey, like the day I thought my fingernails were bleeding, which sent me into panic mode, apparently it was just some bit of red lipstick that had gotten under my nails.
Yes, I know I am supposed to be writing about how cancer has changed my mindset, can you guess that is what I am doing already. I did not start writing about my journey because I felt it would be therapeutic. It has eventually had that effect.
I started to understand the mission when I realized it was helping other women and then pictures of my scar to motivate women and help them make informed decisions around their breast health led me to breast cancer advocacy and awareness and with it came writing, research and conversations.
I have talked about breast cancer in Nigeria from different angles using storytelling to encompass themes like changing the narrative, art meets breast cancer and conversations that matter.
How has cancer changed my mindset and outlook on life?
I am protective of my mental health and no longer tolerate toxic situations.
I have the tenacity and the conviction to be a real force for positive change and I will use my voice to make a difference. A lot of people do not understand the power of information, finding and using it to advocate for themselves.
And it is OK to have boundaries even when you are vulnerable. Boundaries will protect your sanity and wellbeing and keep out unwanted invaders during and after the cancer journey.
The journey is harder after treatment, something cancer survivors do not talk about enough.
This post was written and submitted by a CURE reader. The article reflects the views the author and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.
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