Breasts

Of Titties and Blokes

Yes… Titties and blokes. Because it’s October. My lovely birth month, Breast Cancer Awareness month, The month where we say the things we need to, with all seriousness!

I had to recount this story. It’s one of the few true stories on this blog. Please share your thoughts. Please get the titties checked!

Cheers to a beautiful weekend!

Elise 


One of the first patients I ever cried about was a woman in her early forties who died of breast cancer. At the time, I was a first or second year medical student, doing a  6-week internship at the 37 Military Hospital.

She was a lovely woman, always ready with a joke. I didn’t like the surgical unit much, but she was one of the few patients that gave me reason to head early to work every morning. And although the nurses terrorized me, it was a joy  to check on her before our morning rounds started. 

She was a simple traditional woman, constantly asking me if I had a boyfriend and if he was taking care of me, or asking me if I could cook the strangest meals on earth. Because she reasoned that if I was going to become a doctor, then men would be intimidated. so if I could at least woo them with cooking, then I could snag them before I became  a doctor. 

She amused me thoroughly. 

The day she came in, she could not breathe properly.  Her right breast was a sight to behold – and no, not a good one!

She was already in the late stages of her breast cancer fight.  (Stage IV breast cancer, with metastasis to multiple organs, notable of which was her lungs…)

This was what led to the difficulty in breathing, which finally forced her husband to bring her to hospital.

The skin maceration had not made him bring her. The pus that had soaked whatever dressing they had put on it, had not forced him to bring her either. Just like many of our patients, they had waited till it was almost the very end.

She had been diagnosed about two years prior, she recounted to me – Because I didn’t understand how she had stayed home, and  allowed it to get this bad.

She wasn’t a rich woman – nothing close. But she had the National Health Insurance, and could at the time of diagnosis afford the mastectomy offered, after which she’d planned on maybe relying on extended family to pay for chemo. 

But her husband said No. 

No to surgery on her breasts. No to whatever treatment options she’d been offered. 

“Obaa de3 wonni nufu aah d3n na wo w)?” She said this with sadness. It was hard to miss it. But then she added loudly in a very mirthful way… as if she’d just caught on that her gloom was evident:

“Ose s3 mekotwa me nofo no aah, d3n na )b3 nom?” (He said that if I went to cut off my breasts, what would he have to suck on?)

All the women on the ward burst out in laughter.

I couldn’t even fake the laughter. I was bitter towards this man – this man that I had never even met. I had so many questions! And without even meeting him, I had already labelled him a murderer. Later on she mentioned that he didnt trust orthodox medicine, and so thought that the diagnosis was inaccurate.

I’m older now, and although I know that there are so many similar men out there, I know also, that Aunty Ami should have taken her life into her own hands. Maybe if she had, she would be alive today. 

Alive to hear that I finally got married like she advised. To hear that I didn’t have to give up school or have to woo him with cooking skills like she thought I’d have to. 

Aunty Ami died very dramatically one late afternoon at the ward’s visiting time. It was the first time I saw her husband. He was the one who alerted the nurses about her unresponsiveness. 

He was in tears when we got to the ward. Men don’t often show emotion in hospitals. The hallways are often littered with women or children, wailing about someone’s death or disease. But this man wailed, watching us initiate CPR. 

He screamed, and he begged. If life was in our hands, there’s no doubt we would have let her live, just for the sake of this man’s fears.

By the time it was my turn to take over the chest compressions. I was furious! I don’t show rage often, and even when I do, it’s often in silent tears in my pillow. But this woman’s chest got my rage that day! 

My eyes were blurred with tears, and all the while, I was saying “Aunty Ami, come back”

It was a lost cause.

Right from the beginning it was already a lost cause. We went on for maybe ten minutes, but she was gone. And we knew that our CPR at that point, was only to show her husband that we had tried our possible best.

I took my gloves off as if I had just performed some Grey’s Anatomy Surgery, where my patient didn’t make it. I eyed the grieving man in the corner, and if looks could kill, he would have followed his wife that minute!

The soup he’d brought her had spilt next to him, but he didn’t care. He was on his knees on that dirty ward, screaming “Ao Ami! Ami!”

The doctor gave me a mouthful the minute I walked into the doctors’ room!  For showing my emotions in front of patients – a trait I still haven’t mastered. (Poker face is not for me.)For not realizing that the way that woman came in, she was lucky to have lived four weeks on that ward. For performing CPR in a frenzy, as if the patient was my mother. For looking at that man as if he was the reason she died. He really lashed out at me.

He had me asking myself questions all night. 

Maybe I can be a bit of a crybaby. But very rarely in front of people. And I asked myself the whole way home, and the whole night, why I embarrassed myself crying like an idiot over a woman we all knew was going to die sooner than later.

But by morning, I knew why. 

It was not her death that made me cry so much. It was how preventable the death was. How easily she could have lived!

It was the shouts of her husband that outraged me… Shouts of a man who had trivialized the health of his wife, only to show so much drama at her death!

But maybe he didn’t know. I give him the benefit of a doubt. Because maybe back then, the awareness was not enough. If he came in today though, he would have had it from me! 

It’s breast cancer awareness month. Most hospitals have free screening programs. Please take advantage of those. Get screened. Tell you loved ones to get screened. Escort your loved ones. Make it a party, ladies… call your girlfriends and show up a t a free clinic and get this done. You might not have cancer… but someone might. And they will find out and get it checked. 

I remember whining about so many women coming to get their breasts checked a the clinic a couple of years ago. (Sorry, I was overworked and unpaid lol) I don’t know what prompted me to be sensible – Maybe it was Kafui, cos she was often that godsend jolt of sense to me – but she reminded me, that I was the bridge between someone and a death sentence. 

I was saving lives, I told myself from that point on… Helping prevent breast cancer. 

You’re making sure no-one ends up like Aunty Ami.

I think about her from time to time. Would she have opened another shop in Makola? Would she have left her husband? Would she have shown up at my wedding? Would she have continued with the jokes? I will never know. 

Orthodox medicine is not perfect. What on this God’s earth is perfect?

But many of the things have been researched and shown to work. I hope you don’t sit at home, without noticing something wrong with  your breasts. I hope you get screened, or take a friend to get screened. And I hope that you never trivialize anyone’s health in your life. 

Because wow… how will you live with the guilt that you were their murderer?


“Obaa de3 wonni nufu aah d3n na wo w)” – As a woman without breasts, what do you have?

Comments (19)

  1. Aunty Ami’s story is a sad reality but, it reminds us that we ought to do a part to save a loved one’s life and not be ignorant.

    1. You’ve done justice to the breast cancer awareness month 💙Aunt Amis story is sad because there could possibly have been a way to save her!!

  2. Thanks so much for educating me, Am sure aunty Ami will be happy where ever she is, God bless you Doc

  3. I was a bit teary when reading Aunyy Ami’s story but i think we all have a role to play to help educate others on breast cancer. Together we can fight it… If he masses gets educated by using all the social media handles we have…… Let’s fight this with every resource at our disposal….. Great piece Elise!

  4. This is a very touching story. Wow. If I were to be Auntie Ami’s brother I would have lashed the hell out of that man. I’m sure she will be smiling up there for the good work you have done for her and many other people. Especially women in this month. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 BRAVO Elise 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

  5. I lost my mum through breast cancer. Sometimes when it happens to others it might look far away but it’s very close. Awareness creation and preventive care should be the preferred choice

  6. Thank you DR. E for sharing this emotional and true story with us. I will get my girls so we go for the screening this month. Death that can be prevented should not be tolerated.

    Happy Blessed Birthday in advance my sweet, pretty and brainy Dr./Author😍😘

  7. This is a sorry read. I may not blame this gentleman like you said he might have not with vast knowledge about how dangerous break cancer can be dangerous but we can’t stop saying awareness needs to take the high notch…..

    Thank you

  8. Well done, Elise
    Indeed, breast Screening is a primary preventive measure to avoid the scariest disease…Cancer.

  9. Losing a loved one due to breast cancer like any cancer is such a traumatic experience. I remember losing a friend that was 29years of
    age mother of two ..had no lump but discomfort in breast turned out into a night mare …Screening for all ages is important if we are to fight this

  10. Such an unfortunate incident. Most people sing this anthem in times of mishap “whatever happens, happens for a reason”. Yes, life is a business and whenever you do as a person is on you, it might not affect you directly but the universe has a way of locating you through your actions and inactions. Her husband through his inaction made a wrong call and paid dearly. Let’s send our wives, girlfriends, side chicks etc to get their breast checked. Let’s not forget it plays an important role during the cataclysmic orgasm. Thank you

  11. I have a similar story of a former colleague and friend. Y died before age 30 🙁 Her parents refused to believe the diagnosis and had her using traditional powders until it was too late. The last days by her bedside at KorleBu were painful to watch.
    May Y and Auntie Ami and any others who have died this way rest in perfect peace. And may we who are still here please go get them titties checked.
    Thank you for this story, Elise.

  12. I have been awakened! I surely will get my titties screened for the first time and advocate too. Thanks for nudging me.

  13. Quite a sad story 😩…thank you for taking your time to enlighten us of the need to take our health seriously

  14. Quite a sad one there, but thought provoking, and action prompting. For a while, you made me re-live the memories of wanting to become a doctor. Well I don’t know if you guys allow Electrical Engineers to treat patients though (on a lighter note), if so, you can be sure of seeing me in my white vest (working gear) at your ward tomorrow morning assisting to save lives and create more awareness. Elise, wherever you are, receive the needed grace to run this race you’ve been called to, and may God grant you the strength and enablement to finish well. We can only imagine what you go through, to keep hopes alive.
    Special thanks to Dr Nyamuame Vera for sharing the link.
    #Shalom

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