For most people, cancer is something to dread but for a few others, cancer just like every other illness is surmountable. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer is the second leading cause of death globally.
The global body also identified late presentation of cases and inaccessible diagnosis and treatment as the major reasons why most patients of cancer die of the disease.
However, one of the lucky few who survived the horrifying experience of living with cancer and is today free of the disease is Hadiza Bello-Yero.
The seasoned architect whose story has created more awareness for the silent killer in Taraba State has given birth to the first comprehensive cancer treatment centre in Nigeria.
Her journey through the phase of diagnosis and treatment of cancer was agonizing but has brought a glimmer of hope to those who are currently in similar conditions in Taraba and the country at large, especially now that the cancer treatment centre is domiciled in the state.
Taking journalists down memory lane of how she scaled the hurdle, Bello-Yero explained that the news of her diagnosis hit her like a tsunami.
“When the doctor announced to me that I have cancer, I stood from the bed I was lying down and looked at him. Then I asked what was next? He then told me it has not reached an advanced stage and surgery could be done to remove the growing tumour.
“Then I asked him who would do it for me, then, he said he would and I went home.
“Since I got married, I have never gone to my husband’s office to discuss personal issues with him, but immediately I knew of my condition, I went straight to his office to break the news.
“He calmed me down and that was how the long walk to surviving cancer started.
“After the surgery I thought it was all over, not knowing that the tumour was still there. The doctor advised my husband to take me out of the country for further treatment. I travelled to Dubai and settled at an American hospital for further check-up. It was there that I finally broke down when the doctor told me that the tumour was still there.
“I felt hopeless at the time because I thought I was only in Dubai for further follow-up treatment, not knowing the tumour was still there.
“While I was there drowning in my thoughts and hopelessness, I met a cancer counsellor who cheered me up having told her what the doctor said. Her story gave me hope and Immediately, I determined within me that I was going to beat this cancer.
“She told me she had colon cancer and 20cm of her intestine had to be removed for her to stay alive with the combination of other therapies which eventually led to the total elimination of the cancer cells in her body.
“But one thing she told me was to avoid worrying because anxiety and worry complicate treatment. At that point, I became relaxed and went sight-seeing around Dubai.
“I did four courses of chemotherapy after which I went through some other therapies at the time. And during all these processes, I always inquire about the machines I was being treated with, which I noted down.
“One year after the various therapies that I undertook and the management of my condition, I was then certified cancer-free. I was very happy with the cheering news that I would return to Nigeria as a cancer survivor.
“Before finally leaving for Nigeria, the oncologist told me that he knows a lot of Nigerians’ battle with cancer and might not have the money to come abroad for treatment just like I did. So, he advised me to establish a small cancer centre where people can have access to treatment.
“He also promised to help by training those that would be attending to patients and make himself available at the centre once or twice a year.
“On getting back, I thought about what he told me and gradually we started acquiring the machines for the centre, and today we now have the first comprehensive cancer treatment centre in Nigeria, here in Jalingo, Taraba State capital under FHAMAS Cancer Foundation and we have commenced screening and treatment at our temporal site since February last year.
“I passed through a terrible situation. I don’t want anybody to have such an experience and or die of cancer in this state and the country again. I have already laid out the plan for a world-class cancer treatment centre where I will replicate exactly what I saw in Dubai when I was receiving the treatment.
“I have already acquired four hectares of land for the permanent site of the treatment centre and already the building plan of all the facilities that would be built on that site including hotels for those coming for treatment has been done,” she said.
The vice president of Nigeria Cancer Society (NCS), Elijah H.O Elijah, while speaking in Jalingo, during the commemoration of World Cancer Day, commended the foundation for its foresight to bridge the gap between death and life for cancer patients.
He said NCS and the Civil Society for Cancer Eradication in Nigeria (CISCANEN), being the largest umbrella body in the country for the eradication of cancer is partnering with FHAMAS Cancer Foundation to get rid of disease in Taraba and Nigeria at large.
He also urged government at all levels to take a cue from the humanitarian gesture of Bello-Yero, to lead the campaign against the killer disease across the country by making treatment affordable for all and sundry.
The executive secretary of Taraba Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Jauro Hassan, in his remarks, said the agency would support the foundation in its sensitisation drive in the rural communities to create more awareness on cancer to mostly rural dwellers that have access to primary health facilities in the state.