What will you do if while you are planning for your wedding as a young girl, suddenly you are diagnosed as having Cancer? That was the fate that befell the brilliant Nigerian lady Omobonike who lives in the US. Although many believe she is the biological daughter of Segun Odegbami, City People found out that she is his niece.
When she was discovered as having Cancer last year July, she decided to write about her experience to inspire others. Below are excerpts of her write ups. Last December, she revealed why she will not forget the year 2018 in a hurry. Hear her: “2018 was an interesting year. My daughter asked if I had any resolutions for 2019 and I told her all I have are lessons which I hope would make me a better person in 2019. (1) I became an empty-nester: The experience taught me to enjoy my own company (2) I was diagnosed with cancer (Breast in April; Ovarian in August): The experience taught me to live like it is my last day on earth as we are not promised tomorrow and things can change within a blink. (3) Criminalisation of my illness: This experince taught me to always have a plan B and we are all replaceable (4) Betrayal of those I once looked out for: This experience reinforced Martin Luther King’s quote-”Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved.” (5) People showed up during my illness: This experience taught me that misfortune tests the sincerity of friends. (6) I got married: This taught me that we can be better after we fall. It also shed light on the fact that I am so incredibly lucky to have my army of friends to support me. (7) I bit my tongue: This experience taught me that rudeness is a weak person’s imitation of strength. (8) I made new friends: This experience taught me to be genuinely interested in everyone I meet.
Special thanks to all that made 2018 a year to remember: I thank God for his grace and look forward to what 2019 has to offer”
First day of radiation went well. I took off my clothing to put on that sexy hospital gown – the one that leaves the back open for my buttocks to show – holding the gown with 2 strings – yeah, that sexy gown! As I was being examined in preparation for the treatment, the nurse asked if I was comfortable – well I was but my nipples felt otherwise so they firmed up to complain about the cold room. I apologized on their behalf. I was expecting to feel nauseated but nope all I felt was an irritating smell of “burnt hair”. I don’t even have hair on my boobs or do I???
I started sharing a series of life lessons on Tuesday and one of those lessons is that sometimes we do not see the importance in our dark times because we are so blinded by our tears. If we could only step back and see our problems in relation to life’s larger picture, it would, as humor does, help put them in perspective. When I throw my pity parties, I become so overwhelmed by illness, grief, and the constant fear of death that I forget that humor can bring relief to the darkest of times. Humor and laughter help us cope with pain, suffering, and uncertainty. Humor isn’t a mood, but it can promote a positive mood of happiness. Mark Twain once said that humor is mankind’s greatest blessing. My daughter, Yanju used humor to save her life in her time of stress and illness from brain cancer.
I met with a co-worker today who asked why I came to work instead of staying home. While working often depletes my energy –it also very much revitalizes me. I pondered how I would know when daily burdens and energy expenditure would cost too much. I am planning a wedding (whew!), I am in school, I have an intense work/travel schedule, I am going through radiation, I am lonely (not alone) so I know I have to decide how much energy each activity and commitment is worth. Sometimes the benefit, my love of students, my commitment to my career, my passion for education, my desire to have a wedding to celebrate my commitment to marriage – outweighs the cost of energy depletion.
Breast cancer experience is an ever-changing, non-predictable journey. This journey is evolving into one of growth and enlightenment and is providing me with many unexpected and new opportunities. In searching for the meaning of the journey – which changes over time – I am growing while finding comfort in the challenge. My journey focuses on the uncertainty of the future in terms of recurrence, long-term side effects, and ever-changing and uncertain personal roles. Abandonment of some previous life activities prior to the cancer experience is sometimes an issue. In addition, losses having been occurring in the areas of social interaction.
I have received messages from some that discourage me from posting about my experience as if cancer is some sort of secret punishment that I must be ashamed of and hide. Well, I use the writing process as a way to understand myself and others, as well as to connect with the outside world. Growth comes in deriving meaning and purpose from this experience. The journey is the structure in which self-transcendence is occurring.
Discovering who I am and what I am about brings meaning to the experience, to the journey, and to life. I view this experience less as a period of acute symptoms and more as a dynamic, life-long process. It is not a singular aspect of my life but rather an accumulation of physical, psychological, sexual, social, and spiritual responses to changes that have evolved from the diagnosis and its treatments.
I am ready for Day 2.
My chest is on fire! Why do I feel like I have heart burn???? Today is a busy day as our students start classes so I was anxious to leave the clinic. My drive to work was an emotional one but Oko Aya Leigh kept trying to refocus my attention to wedding plans. No doubt, my emotional battle is one that is crippling at many times.
I have had moments of the highest mountains and moments in the deepest valleys – my question now is how I find balance. I am learning to remain desperate whether in the valley or on the mountaintop. I am constantly climbing. My balance is the climb. One of the hardest things throughout this process is simply saying I have cancer.
In our discussion today as I was being prepped for day 2, the doctor said that patients with very small breasts may require a near mastectomy because a lumpectomy may take most the breast, therefore radiation may not be desired in this case, as many would choose a mastectomy. Well, I don’t have that problem, ti e ba ri nkan ti mo fi se aya, you would understand. Then he proceeded to tell me that women with large breasts that drape down the chest are difficult to treat with radiation, as more scarring and retraction of the treated breast may feel rather hard to the touch. I don’t have that problem either – at least not yet. I told him that I am enjoying the “attention” right now but one of the chapters in my book of life will be “The Rise and Fall of the Décolletages”
As I pull up in the parking structure, I reflect on the fact that I am about to start what would seemingly be the most exciting times of my life and we are experiencing cancer. Obviously, Cancer and Breast cancer is always shocking and horrible, but our lives are just beginning as a married couple! To say that it has thrown our life off course and into a tailspin is an absolute understatement. Since April 24th when my life was threatened, it made me look at my life and how I was living it. One of the things I have been hearing is “You are so positive!” Of course, I try to remain positive, but I really can take little to no credit for it. I really did not have to try to remain positive. I truly believe that God shielded me and protected me from fearful information and reminded me all along the way that the end of my story is going to be good. So, I attribute my positivity to God’s goodness and favor toward me.
Day 3 was a bit rough. I woke up at 3am and could not sleep again till 5am. I spent the time on FaceTime with Oko Aya Leigh. We talked about everything from how busy my day was yesterday, to wedding plans. As we were wrapping up the conversation, he asked how I was doing and I gave the standard response – I am fine. He drilled me on that response and begged to let him into my inner thoughts – how cute! We discussed my fears and he promised me that we will take this journey together – it was reassuring. As I hung up the phone, I thought of the day I would say I am a survivor – the term is empowering, it is comforting, and it is unique. Further, my life has undoubtedly been shaped by my cancer experiences. Having said this, the pessimistic part of my brain made me aware of the many reasons why I do not like to use the term cancer survivor. The fear of recurrence is present in every mysterious ache or prolonged cold. The term cancer survivor implies that I have survived cancer and that is dismissive to the ways that cancer continues to affect me. More important than the threat of being diagnosed with cancer again is the threat that cancer has dictated my life. I frequently find myself asking, how much of the way I treat myself or the way others treat me can be attributed to my cancer diagnosis. For example, someone sent me a message a few days ago – “Bonike, I have had several outbursts in the past on fb about people storming out to comment on a post that is unfavourable or is bad news. I wonder if all these people come out to comment when you post about your joys and triumphs. I get disgusted cos majority of them aren’t genuine but lip service. Who am I to judge anyone? But if reading their comments gives you some joy and healing to your soul, then its all good. I understand better now why you share these experiences. I just don’t understand others’ intention. Well….I just wanted to share my feelings with you ni.”
I have noticed that my revelation has resulted in some that barely speak to me to reach out; some that stopped talking to me for reasons unknown called me; loved ones have offered to make themselves available and constantly check on me; a few have called me though I never answer my phone; family and friends have attempted to come visit; some even send me a message to ask though I am an open book, I guess they need to hear it from me directly. So, whether or not this person’s observation is true is irrelevant because it is real to me. As a result, I desire to distance myself from my cancer experiences so that I, and not cancer, can take responsibility for my strengths and weaknesses; for the nice folks and the mean spirited ones. I choose to believe that all those that are reaching out are doing so out of love.
Life is too short for conspiracy theories. I have had too many loved ones die within days of diagnosis so I am grateful to be alive and I welcome all the well wishes. Trusting someone is my decision them proving me wrong is their choice.
My story motivates me to write about cancer and my experience with it. I am sharing the deepest and most intimate parts of my life with people, some I don’t even know! However, the response I have been receiving has been incredible. I am sharing my heart with hundreds of thousands of people and if my narrative helps one cancer patient, then every bit of it is worth it.
Day 4 was a bit challenging. I was tired – very tired and cranky so when Oko Aya Leigh made a comment regarding my phone being off – I became livid. Poor man, he watched me on the FaceTime screen helplessly as I ranted for almost 20 minutes. I just did not want to be nagged – not today – not ever. Olufunmilola Leigh I am so sorry for my outburst this morning. Misplaced anger!!!
The silence was deafening on the ride to work but in normal Mr. Leigh fashion, he found a way to break the ice. I love that man!!!! As I walked into my building, I reflected on the fact that loved ones do not have to just simply survive when dealing with breast cancer or another scary diagnosis. They can learn how to better their relationships and learn how to turn this tragedy into a triumph. My transparency can bring to light potential problems, hardships, and victories that can happen when someone is given such a diagnosis.
One might assume that I would focus on the physical part of fighting cancer but it pales in comparison to the emotional turmoil that I experience daily. As the one diagnosed with cancer, I am able to watch with a unique perspective of how this diagnosis is affecting my loved ones. I watch as they are testing the waters, swimming aimlessly, panting, and striving to find their place in dealing with this disease and the hardships it brings with it.