On Saturday, 8th of October 2016, the Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN) organized an activity to create awareness about breast cancer in Ibadan. And I was a part of it. I always love such activities, by the way. We wore customized t-shirts with “Jog for life” boldly written on it and jogged for 5 km. We jogged/walked behind a truck with speakers that played some nice and really loud music.
Of course, lots of people came out, were curious about what was going on and watched us. And then we distributed two different flyers to both the men and women we met on the way. One flyer contained information on how to conduct self-breast examination along with pictures. The other flyer contained information on the several screenings women should go for regularly, which were mammography and Pap smear test. However, I do wish the flyers were written in Yoruba as well, and not just English, so that more people could understand what was written on the flyers, since Yoruba is the local language spoken in Ibadan. A woman held a microphone and screamed out statements like “Check your breasts every month. Go to the hospital. Don’t go to the pastor” in both English and Yoruba languages.
At the stopping point, secondary school students who took part in the activity were made ambassadors of breast cancer awareness. They were told to tell their parents about breast cancer and the need for regular screening and self-breast examination. They were also told to spread the word to their friends. And make their friends promise to tell their other friends and make those friends promise to tell their other friends. Which is a nice way to spread information. I learnt that three 16 year old girls were diagnosed with breast cancer this year. This is really sad and alarming. This means that the need to start examining your breasts should start early and not just until you reach adulthood.
I also learnt about a 27 year old woman who was able to diagnose her breast cancer early. However, she still died. Why? Because instead of going to the hospital for medical treatment, she went to her pastor. Her pastor promised her he could cure her. She only went to the doctor when it was too late for any medical treatment to be effective. This is not even surprising. Nigerians are extremely religious.
While we were sharing flyers, one woman refused to collect the flyer we gave her. She said “I will not have breast cancer, in Jesus name.” Her statement was borne out of faith. Which is really nice. It’s just not nice if because of faith, she refuses to go for screening or refuses to check her breasts regularly.
The problem is not that we rely too much on faith. The problem is that we rely too much on faith alone. And then we refuse to carry out behaviours that will protect us from diseases. We refuse to go see the doctor for treatment. Because we have faith. Because we say we are special and nothing can happen to us. because we have faith.
But, didn’t God create the doctor? Didn’t he give us the brains to build hospitals and produce medicines? We only go to the hospitals when it is too late and nothing can be done. And then when we cannot get cured, we curse and demonise hospitals and doctors. Well, doctors cannot perform miracles.
Let us pray. Let us have faith. But please, let us also act. Let us live healthily. After all, the popular saying goes “Heaven helps those who help themselves”. Right?