Cancer is a disease that destroys invisibly. Under my control, it progressively impaired my mother. She squandered her life away without even realizing it. A person’s vitality, capacity to think, desire to live, finances, and enjoyment are all stripped away by sickness. It annihilates families like a tsunami. Her illness and medical past are something I’ll never forget.
It all began in the month of February of 2012. My mother returned home from college with a headache. Her entire body trembled. I went to the pharmacy and got her some pain relievers. She looked stronger after a few hours. She went to work as planned the next day, but only stayed for two hours. This time, she had cramps in her lower abdomen and felt dizzy. Her delicate skin turned yellow. I advised her to go to the hospital for a medical checkup. However, she turned down the idea and resorted to taking pain relievers again. This trend continued for the next eight days. Soon, she could not do her normal chores and took a leave from her employment.
On the thirteenth day of her illness, I insisted that she must consult a doctor to examine her issue. My younger brother and I organized with the community elder to transport her to the health facility, five kilometers away. The doctor diagnosed her. He tested for malaria but found nothing. He then tested her for viral and bacterial infections. However, all the results turned out negative. He could not detect any abnormality. In the end, the doctor decided to scan her body organs to see if they were all right. Still, he found nothing to report about. This outcomes worried us a lot. We could not understand what was ailing her. Worse still, she had undergone many medical procedures which showed us nothing. On the doctors’ recommendations, we bought advanced pain reliefs to ease the pain.
As soon as we arrived home, I noticed something unusual. My mother’s bedding was soaked in blood. I thought that she had hurt herself with a sharp object.
“Mama! Mama!” I called.
“Calm down my child. I am okay,” she said.
“What is happening to you? Where is the blood coming from? Mama talk to me!”
My mother blankly stared into my face and said that she had just felt a hot fluid leave her body. Howver, she could not explain the source or cause. Having struggled to take to the hospital earlier, I decided to call a family friend, Mrs. Delphina, to come help me deal with the situation. She came within a few minutes. Her reaction confused me. She asked me to access my mother’s medical and financial documents so that we could take her to the hospital immediately. I also informed her that we had just come from the community health centre where the diagnosis of all illnesses were negative. Nonetheless, she insisted that we had to go to another health facility where she gets her medical services.
By the time we arrived at the hospital, it was almost half past nine O’clock in the evening. I was extremely tired. I just wanted the doctors to treat my mother and allow us to go home and rest. Conversely, this was not to happen. After writing down her medical treatment history, he told us that he was going to test something which had not been tested before. He called it an MRI process, which I later came to understand to mean Magnetic Resonance Imaging. After a moment, he came back with a note and asked how we were related to the patient. We informed him.
He then said, “I want you to know that this is not the end of the road for you. We will simply remove the tumor and the uterus then put your mother under medication to help her control the spread of the cells.”
I asked him what he was talking about since I did not understand a thing. He spent one hour trying to explain that my mother had cancer of the uterus. It was in the fourth stage and had affected her womb. That is why she was bleeding a lot. He said that had my mother sought medical attention early enough, she would have been helped. That was the last thing I wanted to hear as I had read and heard stories that cancer cannot be treated. Many thought rushed through my mind as I tried to come to terms with the news. Nevertheless, the doctor assured us that the cancerous cells were localized; they shad affected the womb only. As a consequence, once the womb is removed, my mother would be well. We believed him. He scheduled her surgical operation for emergency which was to take place within thirty six hours.
The first operation was successful. I was grateful and happy that my mother would become well again. But then, one month after we left the hospital, she started to bleed again. This time, her pain was so severe so that she cried like a baby. The blood was coming out in large clots and had a foul smell. Her abdomen was swollen, and she completely lost her appetite. These two issues made her lose more weight. The pain could not allow her to settle down to eat while loss of appetite made her dislike almost every food item. Within the first two weeks of March, 2012, she had lost 51.7 pounds. On the other hand, we had spent all her savings on buying Oncovin and Carboplatin, her oral chemotherapy drugs, and special diet. This unexpected budget made us poor. Personally, I had to defer my studies to spare the money for our upkeep. All these situations meant that we had no more money to return her to the hospital. I also dreaded that the bleeding would be a serious issue of emergency. So, I talked to the church pastor who offered to pay for her second admission as he mobilized people to contribute for her treatment.
On a second diagnosis at the hospital, the doctor found out that the cause of the pleading was the cancer agents found in her blood system. Although she was out of danger, her blood made it difficult for the internal wounds to heal. As a result, he recommended that another operation be undertaken to tighten up the wounds and the place dried up under radio therapy. This too, was successful. Then a shocking revelation was made. My mother’s system had developed resistance to the medication. She was not responding to them. I could not believe the series and gravity of the events that were unfolding. My body trembled uncontrollably. I tried to pray to God to heal my mother but I could not utter any word. I looked at her frail body stretched on the hospital bed. She was not moving at all. The doctor walked me out of the room to the lounge as they took her to the Intensive Care Unit. That was the last time I saw my mother alive. She succumbed to cancer.
Having experienced these traumatizing events within a period of less than two months, I changed my attitude towards ailments. No matter how minor a situation is, I do not ignore it and take over the counter medication. My mother assumed that he was suffering from common and manageable sickness but it turned out to be the cause of her death. I dread having to suffer emotionally, financially, and mentally as it happened to me six years ago. I would rather be treated at the earliest time possible than resort to self-medication.