GEORGINE OBWANA: Bullets are forever, Breast Cancer is not

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OPINION– A bullet dislodged from a gun chamber rips through our body especially if it’s the head with at most certainty leaving you dead before your brain can process what happened. 

A bullet is forever. But breast cancer is not a bullet, much as news about it is devastating, scary and shocking to patients diagnosed with it. The feeling of “knowing” am signing my death certificate is inevitable.

Hopelessness, fear, uncertainty, misperception finds fertile ground to set in. Then the whole treatment journey is exceptionally challenging, exhausting yet chastening at the same time. Speaking about breast cancer has time and again made our human component lost in an ocean of statistics & studies, often making us forget to realize how important it is to share real life stories of survivors who have been affected by a disease that is distressing millions of people. 

It is inspiring and humbling to hear from bold, generous individuals who are willing to open up and share their honest versions of perseverance, survival, compassion, joy and strength on how cancer has impacted their lives. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), an annual global campaign aimed at raising awareness about the impact of breast cancer. It is key the public understands and appreciates what cancer is.

It’s effect on life’s trajectory. For persons distraught by the disease, it’s crucial that they learn the significance of acceptance, slowing down and seeing things for what they are, caring more about the purpose of life, being in the moment of transition, as well as appreciating the emotional knowledge one gains although this is very tricky.

This year’s BCAM theme focuses on “buddying up with one another because no one should fight cancer alone”. Patients ‘can’t do the cancer thing’ alone, they need to let people in as a support system. This helps them as well as those closest to go through it together. The more patients shut people out, the harder it is for all to conquer the battle against cancer. 

COVID-19 pandemic and its seclusion has also created upheaval for many cancer patients illuminating a lot to be desired. What is happening and I believe continues to happen is that certain mammograms are often misdiagnosed contributing to drug resistance. We also shouldn’t quickly forget that breast cancer awareness and advocacy needs to erase gender from the discussion.

It’s important for the public to know that any gender can suffer from breast cancer. As for patients, preparing yourself for how others react to your diagnosis is key. Set boundaries where you feel you need space as you be mindful of those who want to become your ‘doctor’. Lately everybody has a doctorate degree on the internet and they ooze with all sorts of information. 

Always remember to do what feels good never blame yourself, anybody else or even your own body because it didn’t do anything wrong.If you’re not living life on the edge, you’re taking too much space. Take it in mind that sometimes cancer returns, sometimes it doesn’t, so whereas you have survived it and have the time to be here, kindly ride this life until the wheels come off.

Breast Cancer is not a dislodged bullet from a gun’s chamber.

By Georgine Obwana, Program Officer – Civil Society Alliance for Nutrition Uganda (CISANU)