Nigerian women present their cases too late – Kehinde Gbelee

Nigerian women present their cases too late – Kehinde Gbelee

The month of October is known world over as breast cancer awareness month dedicated to the education of the menace of breast cancer and its early dete

Amira Ibrahim-Alfa: The new face of television
International Women’s Day: Celebrating the resilience of the Nigerian woman
Meet Ndidi Obioha, The Hardworking Serial Entrepreneur

The month of October is known world over as breast cancer awareness month dedicated to the education of the menace of breast cancer and its early detection to help save lives. It is also referred to as ‘Pinktober’, that is, Pink – the symbolic colour of Breast cancer and October – the month of awareness. In honour of what this month stands for, we speak to a breast cancer survivor, Kehinde Gbelee who willingly shared her story as well as some useful advice to women

Kehinde Gbelee, Vice President of Care Organisation Public Enlightenment (COPE), is a breast cancer survivor and has been for the past 17 years. A committed advocate of breast cancer awareness, Kehinde Gbelee is an active member of  the National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund, United States of America and a supporter of Breast Cancer Research, United Kingdom. Kehinde Gbelee also runs Sugar Kogsy Craft Centre, an outfit that provides a cake lifestyle to people in the cake business.

How did you find out that you had breast cancer?
I found out by noticing a lump. Usually I do self breast examination which I will advise any woman to do. I found out that something was not quite right. After two weeks and with the lump not disappearing, I went to the hospital and they did series of tests. I never thought it would be cancer. The first set of result came out as inconclusive. Later on, I was told it was breast cancer.

It must have been very traumatic for you. Did it affect your work life?
Breast cancer as a disease affects everybody, not only the person who has it, but your family as well. Of course, it affected my work life because I had to take some time off to have chemotherapy which makes you very weak and making you not be at your optimum. I was diagnosed in stage two. It was very scary and dark period for me. I was afraid, I would die but I am thankful that 17 years after, I am still here. I also faced the psychological aspect of having breast cancer, an area that hasn’t really been focused on.

Kehinde Gbelee

Kehinde Gbelee

How did you go about funding your treatment as treatment is quite expensive?
I am married to a doctor who happened to be in the UK at that time. My treatment was in the UK and the funding came through the grace of God. The truth is, the earlier you detect it, the cheaper your treatment, time is a very important factor in breast cancer treatment. The thing is that eight out of ten lumps are non-cancerous but the only way you can know is by checking it out. We do have good centres over here that can treat breast cancer. We are really very blessed with good hands here.

How was the recovery process for you?
The treatment takes between six to nine months depending on the nature of your cancer. Those who detect it early can have their radiotherapy done in four weeks. I had mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and after my treatment which took six to seven months, I was on drugs for five years as well as an annual check-up. After a while, I got discharged from the clinic. When you survive your first five years, your risk assessment becomes lower.

After the treatment, can it reoccur?
Yes unfortunately.

You said you had a mastectomy. That is one area breast cancer survivors find quite challenging; having to loose a breast or two.
When I was told I was going to have a mastectomy, the first thing I asked was, do women live with one breast.  Because I have never seen any woman with one breast. It came to me as a shock. The truth is that it is more important that you stay alive, whether you have one breast or no breast at all. The situation has changed. Now you hear celebrities say that because they have the likely hood of having breast cancer in their DNA, they will have bilateral mastectomy for prevention purpose. Now it is more heard of than at that time. I had my own replacement after four years.

Is there any stigmatization that comes with having breast cancer?
Sure! Stigmatization comes. Yes there is stigmatization, but for me the overriding truth is that I want breast cancer to end. I know what I went through and wouldn’t want other women to go through it.

What advice do you have for women generally who are still ignorant about breast cancer?
One thing I have noticed is that people go to other places before seeking medical help when it is already too late. A lump has no place in the breast, once you notice, check it out, don’t wish it, or pray it away, go to a reputable doctor to have the breast checked and follow the advice given.