Our second WCD submission is a heartfelt first-person account of one woman's physical and emotional battle with breast cancer. Our sincerest thanks to Herve Rugamba for a beautifully written and hard-hitting work.
That Lump, That Ticking Bomb
By Herve Rugamba, 3rd year medical student at the University of
Burundi, Faculty of Medicine.
Being promoted to work on your birthday. What could be better for a day. It was my
50th birthday. With a loving husband and two children. My life was a success. It was
one of the happiest days of my life. At least I thought so.
That morning, during my bath, I felt a small lump on my right breast. It did not hurt.
Nothing to worry about, I thought. I was thinking about my promotion. It was my 50th
birthday. My mind was filled. Filled with positive energy.
Four years have passed and I live with my lump. I just changed the size of my bra
because my breast became larger. My friends envy me seriously. Noone mentions consulting a doctor. She takes care of sick people, doesn’t she? My life
is rolling like clockwork. I am proving that my promotion was deserved. My eldest
son graduated from high school. One morning of that wonderful life, I wake up with
tenacious pain in my right breast. I endure it but I can't use my arm. I decide to consult a gynecologist.
From that moment, everything rushes. I learn that the lump is breast cancer. Fear, depression, anger. I blame the whole world, especially my gynaecologist. In his office I want to tear down all the posters talking about women without cancer. I cry with shame, ignorance and despair. I lost four years. And my family? And my children? Who will take care of them? I have just been sentenced to death. The doctor talks to me about chemotherapy in Kenya, India, France. But I don’t want to do anything. I want to die in peace. I can’t afford a surgery.. And abroad, as if the first issue was not enough. My friends’ prayer sessions will help. A traditional healer proposed to fire this “devil” from me. Noone gets my misfortune. I spend days crying alone. Maybe, if I was born in another part of the world, I would have survived that damn lump. That damn bomb tearing my life apart in its explosion.
One day, I decide to fight for myself, for my children. I cannot give up. We sell a plot,
we ask close friends and families to contribute and I finally leave for Kenya. My body
is butchered with rays, my right breast removed, my hair falling out. My taste for life
flew away. Thinking about my children is my only leitmotif. I am given a second
chance. I feel proud of my successful fight.
Now, one year later the cancer has returned. Exhausted, I gave up. Time’s up. I
have a separate room in the house. I overheard they were looking for a wife for my
husband. The cancer metastized. All positions hurt. Morphine. That’s all I have left.
Life is slowly leaving me.
I am Yvonne. I’m 55. About to leave. At first it was just a lump.
Thank you for reading. Before you go, follow this link for a concise review of breast cancer prevention and control strategies from the World Health Organisation (WHO).