Arrrrrrrgh! Shola gave a loud and painful cry; she was battling with her period again. She experiences this excruciating pain every month whenever she was on her period. She continued screaming aloud, tossing from one end of the bed to another, she was indeed in great pains, pains that were a million times greater than what she experienced these previous months and unlike before, she has been experiencing very heavy flow, she even uses double the amount of sanitary towels other than what she used to use. In fact, the pain she was passing through seemed to have superseded that of a woman in labour. Her roommate Adah was perplexed as to what she should do, she knew quite well that Shola always suffered menstrual pains but her condition today gave her reasons to doubt if the pain she was passing through was actually due to her period. She suggested that they should go to the school clinic but Shola wouldn’t even let anyone touch her. When all Adah’s attempt to take her to the hospital proved abortive, she had to say a short prayer for her and then leave for class. The other girl in the room(for they were three leaving in that room)believed that Shola must have undergone a D and C and this was the story she carried to school that morning and like wild fire, the news of Shola having an abortion was all over campus.
Adah came back to the hostel by noon only to find Shola lying unconscious in the pool of her own blood, at first she thought she had died, and then she ran towards her, put her head on her chest to listen to her heart beat and graciously, she was still breathing. She quickly called to the girls in the next room and they helped her take Shola to the school clinic. After running some tests, the doctor had to refer her to a private hospital for further diagnosis and for adequate treatment. Shola proceeded to the private hospital and further tests were carried out proving that a growth was discovered in her cervix and the doctor thought it wise for her to go for a screening. Meanwhile, after a heart to heart talk with the doctor, it was discovered that unhappily, Shola started having sex at an early age of 14 and this put her in a risk of cervical cancer as it has been found that girls who start having sex in their teen years are at a higher risk of contracting HPV(Human Papilomavirus) which is the virus responsible for cervical cancer later in life. However, she still had to undergo the screening so that an informed medical decision could be made. Shola was required to do an ultrasound to have a picture of what was going on in her abdomen, a papsmear was also needed which was going to confirm as regards to the cervical cancer, a colposcopy was needed as well for proper inspection of the vagina and cervix and if need be, a biopsy would be carried out. All these were necessary to enable the doctor draw the final conclusion.
The entire tests were carried out and it proved that Shola had cervical cancer and the cancer was already in stage 2B indicating that the cancer had already spread up into the tissues around the cervix and she was told that the only way out was a radical hysterectomy which is the complete removal of the womb and this would be done alongside the removal of lymph nodes in the pelvis and samples of lymph nodes in the back of the abdomen. Shola felt like dying immediately, she couldn’t believe her ears and she insisted that the result of the test was a misdiagnosis and wanted the test carried out a second time and when the result of the second test came out, it still proved she had cervical cancer. Shola broke down and in seconds, she emaciated greatly, it was like she lost more than 45kg of her weight, she became very lean and looked utterly depressed. She kept thinking how possible it was for her to have the big C, for all she knew, there was no trace of cancer in her family so what must have gone wrong, she couldn’t quit thinking and adding salt to injury, she won’t be able to have kids of her own in the future after the hysterectomy. Who would want to marry a barren woman? She asked herself sobbing uncontrollably. She felt like her own life had ended, in fact one could say that she was in a complete state of depression, she was entirely devastated and I bet she must have thought of committing suicide. When Shola broke the news to her parents, they were thrown into a state of agony and misery, they questioned God for allowing such a thing to befall their only child, her mother couldn’t stop crying as the fact of not having grandchildren pierced her heart, causing her to feel great pain. It was indeed a melancholic moment for her family for they were all downcast.
However, since the surgery will keep her alive and take away the cancer completely, they saw it as a reason to thank God because it would have been worse if there wasn’t any remedy at all. The next morning, her parents decided to take her to the teaching hospital to get a final opinion perhaps they still had doubts in them. They got to the hospital wearing long faces; they met the doctor and presented the test results from the previous hospital demanding that the tests should be run again. Since a patient is entitled to a second opinion, the doctor ran the tests again and the results came out the same and at that point, it dawned on them that they weren’t dreaming and everything was actually reality.
Looking at the bright side, the doctor made them to understand that hysterectomy wasn’t the final option for cervical cancer, that it was offered to women who do not want to become pregnant in future and though hysterectomy was a very good opinion for cervical cancer as it prevents the cancer from spreading from the cervix to the nearby lymph nodes, yet it wasn’t necessarily the only option for cervical cancer. On hearing this, their faces beamed with smiles, Shola involuntarily shouted a big hallelujah and started jumping up, repeatedly saying ‘Thank you Jesus’. The doctor further explained that instead of hysterectomy, she would be undergoing chemoradiotherapy which is combined radiotherapy and chemotherapy. She would have a daily external radiotherapy for 5 days every week, for around 5 weeks and also have a boost of internal radiotherapy(brachytherapy) at the end of her course and during the radiotherapy, she would as well have chemotherapy once a week or once every 2 or 3 weeks depending on the chemotherapy drugs she would be having.
The doctor vividly explained all these to her assuring her that everything would be alright. Her parents were very happy and returned all glory to God. The doctor however made it clear that they must begin the course of action immediately as time was not on their side. Shola heaved a sigh of relief as though a great burden had been lifted off her shoulders and then she said ‘so I won’t lose my womb after all’ she took out her handkerchief from her bag and wiped her tears.
Written by Awujo Onyinyechi Diamond, University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria.