Seated on a waiting chair at the Meena Breast Cancer Foundation’s (MBCF) office is a neatly dressed woman, Afua Pedenima, with three others.
She has her face buried in her palm as she hams to a song playing on the television set. Her hands and feet look darker than the rest of her body; no, not from skin bleaching but an effect of medical treatment.
Pedenima, 31, has been fighting breast cancer for the past 8 years.
“Somewhere in 2015, I had seen a video of a woman with breast cancer appealing for help on television, so I told myself to regularly check my breast. On one of those checks, I noticed a boil on top of my right breast, I immediately reported to the Madina Pentecost Hospital” she recounted.
The single mother said the pimple-sized boil kept expanding and feeling uneasy.
“I was given some antibiotics but the pain became unbearable, later I started applying ointments but I could not endure the pain anymore so I reported back to the hospital, this time the boil felt hard and darker”
“After examination, the doctors removed it and I was told it was cancerous” she narrated.
Then, 24-years-old she said she lost consciousness after hearing the diagnosis.
“I collapsed when they told me the boil was cancerous, I could not eat, sleep nor think straight, all I could do was cry because I knew my world was shattered,” she said.
Afua Pedenima was brought to Accra from the Northern Region at age 8 to work as a nanny.
Her family lived in a village close to Bolga where they worked as farmers.
“I have 12 siblings, 4 from my mother and I am the firstborn and the breadwinner,” she explained.
The hairdresser apprentice said her meager Four Hundred Ghana cedis (GHC400) allowance could not foot the bills for her cancer treatment talk less of remitting her family up North.
“So, I gave up and decided not to visit Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital for further treatment because a woman I had seen on television appealing for alms I had learned died after 2 weeks from breast cancer, so there was no point,” she said.
The self-motivated woman said she later decided to give it a try. Her fight with breast cancer began again.
After numerous scans, mammograms, and chemotherapy, Pedenima was 2017 listed to have a mastectomy (a surgery to remove a breast) at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.
“My right breast was removed,” she recounted amid sobbing.
The pains and frequent hospital visitation were finally over for Pedenima. She could live as a ‘normal’ young adult and plan her life. She has been cancer-free for three years.
“In 2019, I had my daughter though I told doctors to save her life at the detriment of mine, they saved us both and it has been my best decision ever,” she said.
The self-driven woman had her life back together, established herself as a hairdresser at Ashaley Botwe, a suburb of Accra, and rented a single bedroom self-contain where she raised her child.
After three years of being cancer-free, the disease has reemerged, this time stretched to her bones.
The 31-year-old has begun the fight against cancer all over again and according to her spends One Thousand Six Hundred Ghana cedis (GHC1600) every three weeks on treatment.
“I am unable to work as much as I would want to because of the effect of the radiotherapy so I have sold my hairdressing salon, an 8*8 feet container, and other valuables to foot the bills and vacated my room because of difficulty in paying rent” she added.
Pedenima says she squats in an uncompleted building around Ashaley Botwe with her 4-year-old daughter and mother.
“I have sold everything valuable to fight this disease but it has resurfaced and unfortunately I don’t know how I am going to beat it again,” she said sobbing.
The tri-weekly treatment at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, according to doctors, is subsidized by government for the first three months; therefore, Pedenima is likely to pay more than One Thousand Six Hundred Ghana cedis (GHC1600) after three months.
“It has not been easy, sometimes when I look at my old pictures I cry, I have lost weight, and hair and started developing sores in my mouth and under my buttocks” she added.
According to her, life has been unbearable.
“I had seen Meena Breast Cancer Foundation on social media and decided to reach out for help. I want to appeal to benevolent individuals to support me. I don’t want to die,” she said.
The Foundation had earlier paid for her last session.
According to the 2020 GLOBOCAN report, Ghana is estimated to record 4,645 new breast cancer cases, more than double the estimated 2,062 new cases in 2012, with nearly 50% dying.
The high mortality rate is attributed to late-stage presentation, and most women affected with breast cancer are below 50 in Ghana.
However, there are no specialized breast cancer hospitals in the country.
“Governments across the world allocate money to HIV/AIDS every year, but AIDS is not as deadly as cancer,” the Executive Director of Meena Breast Cancer Foundation, Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng said in an earlier interview.
The Meena Breast Cancer Foundation was launched on October 6, 2022, in Accra in memory of Mrs. Amina Oppong Kwarteng, who died of breast cancer on July 18, 2022.
To support the project, kindly send your donations to 054 5822 773.
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