Cancer Awareness

“Cancer is not your sickness, it’s our sickness; you need the moral support from the family”.

My aunt Daity Green Temple died of breast cancer. Hilda is one of my childhood friends. Her mother died twenty five years ago. Four years ago, I  presented her to another friend. Both friends’ mothers died of cancer. Yojaira, a university friend, passed away 8 years ago from cancer. A week after her death, I remember speaking with Miss Aleseter, a friend of mine from Corn Island, Nicaragua, who gave me the bad news of her breast cancer diagnosis. 

For sure, you have also lost a loved one of cancer illness, or know someone who has. Cancer can start anywhere in the human body since we have millions of cells. This disease has become part of our life  and has caused the death of millions of people, globally. 

It was a sunny Friday morning around 9:30 A.M. I had just finished an interview for the production of a documentary. I was sitting when I got the call from Arlene. She said, “ We lost flaca” (Yojaira’s nickname). I remember saying no, no, ¡no! and started to cry.  The following days were and still are sad when I recall vivid memories of her. I lost a dear friend, likewise, a mother lost her daughter, and a sister lost a sibling. 

Yojaira (2009) Photo: Kimmo Lehtonen

For many women and relatives, it is not easy to cope with this illness, because they don’t have the money for the treatment if it is not covered by a healthcare insurance. Some are ashamed to talk about it, and many others do not have access to a proper healthcare system.

I met Aleseter while I was working with a project that enhances journalism knowledge and production. She is tall, strong, likes to joke, friendly, a baseball lover, and sincere. We became friends and still maintain our relationship. I asked her to share her story with us as a cancer survivor.

“ In 2012, I discovered a small lump on my left breast. I am from a  small island which had only a small health center in those days; so, I had to wait for some specialist to arrive. They did an ultrasound on my breast, then recommended a biopsy which I got done in Managua (the capital). The result was negative. I flew back home, but deep in my mind I knew something was wrong. A week later, I did a second biopsy and waited 12 days for the result. It was positive. The third biopsy also was positive. 

The doctor told me, “it’s not good news”. I said to him, “anything can kill me except this cancer, because with the help of God, I will overcome it”. I remember he looked at me and said, “those are the words of a warrior”. 

My cancer was stage 1 when it was discovered. A  surgery was done to remove the malignant cells, and then I started my chemotherapy in May. However, when I was on my third chemo session, they discovered more spots in the same place, so I underwent a second surgery and continued my treatment. It was then December, but things didn’t improve, so in January, I had a mastectomy done. 

Aleseter and I (2018) Photo: Aleseter

At the beginning, I didn’t mention it to my son nor the rest of the family, because we grew up thinking that cancer is a taboo. Nevertheless, I told one of my brothers. He said to me:,”cancer is not your sickness, it’s our sickness; you need the moral support from the family”. 

During my chemo treatment, I heard a lot of comments about what would happen to me, but the reality was another, since everyone has their own experience; what is good for you, can be bad for me. For example, I saw a lot of women vomiting during the treatment, I didn’t. The doctor told me that I will lose my hair. Indeed, 16 days after the treatment, I lost it. My brother helped shave the rest. It was a ball of hair. 

On the island, the rumour was that I was dying. So when I got off the plane, people were surprised to see me in such a good condition. However, people’s attitudes changed toward me, I felt bad. I didn’t realize the impact cancer has on ignorant people who think  that it’s contagious. When I saw this reaction, I decided to get on the radio station and talk about it. I said these words. 

Aleseter voice

Days after, Mr. Siu, the owner of a hotel, told me, “I had always admired you, but now I double admire you, because not everyone wants people to know about their sickness; you were very brave and courageou’s. But on the other hand, some people also mocked my illness. 

Aleseter story

My advice to the ladies is to check yourselves, examine yourselves, know your body. If you discover something that is not normal, look for professional help. 

Have you lost someone of cancer? Share your story.