I’d first met Dr. Fred Okuku, an oncologist, in 2015 at the Uganda Cancer Institute when my family was looking for expert opinions following the discovery of a brain tumour (Glioblastoma) that the doctors had discovered after my father’s stroke. It was he who told me to advise the family to take him home and make him comfortable. While hearing that was extremely upsetting, after doing some further consultations, we listened to his recommendation. We ceased all fundraising plans to take him abroad for a miracle treatment, took him home and made his last days as comfortable and happy as possible.
Naturally, he was the first doctor that Fiona (my sister) told me to book an appointment with.
I woke up that morning after having slept like a baby (it’s amazing really. for a girl who’d spent the better part of the previous evening sobbing, my sleeping abilities never fail me). However, in the morning, life tends to remind you how shitty it is even if you slept well. The minute I woke up, I was a mess again. It’s a wonder I managed to leave the house without my mother noticing my puffy red eyes. Even then, I still hadn’t told her.
It was only Carol, my friend, and I who met with Dr. Okuku that morning. Fiona was running late and would meet us for lunch to debrief.
I’ll never forget the first thing he said after perusing through my medical reports. ”Linda, this is going to disorganize you for a while.But don’t worry, it’s still early and you can have this managed so that you can enjoy the rest of your life.”
These words were very important to hear. When you find out you have cancer, you immediately start seeing a coffin. Atleast I did. Because it’s such a ruthless disease you’re gripped by so much fear that it helps when you find out that you’re not entirely a lost cause. Dr. Okuku was such a calm and ‘patient cautious’ doctor, Carol and I were immediately put at ease with every question we asked. We were with him for about an hour and he acted like we were the only people he had to see that day. He’d pause after answering a question, waiting for his words to make sense to us and as he anticipated the next question that was sure to come. Even while Fiona was scheduling more appointments with other doctors, I knew that I was most probably going to proceed with him.
We left the hospital with this summary of my situation:
- I was going to need another surgery. Mastectomy or a Lumpectomy – One would have me lose my entire breast, the other would just remove the surrounding tissue of the infected area. The lymph nodes would also be checked at this point.
- The tissue that had been removed at Surgery 1 had margins that tested positive for cancer. This meant that while it was plucked out, there was definately still residue cancer left behind. Main reason why another surgery was necessary.
- I was very lucky. It was early – Stage 1. However, I’d have to have my under arm lymph nodes checked during the surgery because if it’s to spread that’s the first place it manifests.
- My cancer was ER-Positive. In simple terms, the cancer feeds off the estrogen hormone. It turns out that knowing what type it is makes it easier to manage. Since I had already had a surgery (remember, the dreadful one on Good Friday? Surgery 1), he advised me to go on hormonal therapy immediately to prevent any spread while I plan for the second surgery. (I’ll go into the details of this treatment another time)
- After the surgery I may or may not need to do chemotherapy before I start radiotherapy. At the time, I was so terrified of chemotherapy that I started praying that I didn’t have to go through it. When I look back, I suspect that the doctor knew this and thus mentioned it as an option so that I could handle one crisis at a time.
That day I found out that Breast Cancer is one of the easiest cancers to treat – IF caught early. Post diagnosis, treatment plan is normally successful. This is why its so important to get checked as often as possible and/or report any weird anything one finds on their breast. The earlier it’s caught, the easier it is to deal with.
So there you have it, touch dem boobies as often as you can!