Monday, March 17, 2014

On Managing Illness

BY Adejoh Idoko Momoh

‘I think I have cancer Aunty’

There would be the longest ten seconds of silence and then I would continue. ‘It was in the bathroom, I reached for my scrotum and I found a lump’

Like every other Christian I know, my aunt would break into prayer: tell me of how cancer was not my portion and I probably was just scared. She would advise I go see a doctor and ask me to update her after I saw one.

Seven years later I would summon the courage to tell my mother of this lump, we would go to a clinic and discover it was a hernia. They would say it was on the right and then as they surgically repaired the one tear, they would see that it presented on the left as well and recommend that I had a second surgery.
My mood swung like a pendulum in the days that followed the diagnosis; at first I felt nothing, then my mother would ask why I did not trust her with information on the lump when I first found it and I would feel guilt. In a few hours, I would wonder if the doctors really diagnosed me wrong and it was cancer, then I would feel some relief it was not. At night, as I lay to sleep I would sink my face deep in my pillow and cry really loud sobs. In the morning I would think to surgical procedures and how expensive they can be. My thoughts would progress to worry induced by illness and then a lack of finances, then guilt again and some more blame; just the thought that I may have brought this upon myself.

I would go through all these privately and largely alone. I would have the support system of family but then I would consider that everybody has his troubles and I would not bother them. My brother would be at my side all the time, offering to help and my mother, as though magically putting her life on hold would constantly cater to me. I have only a handful of friends and at the time, besides 2 dear friends, they all would be absent. I would wonder why no one else was there and then I would think this spoke more about me and the people I chose to surround myself with.

It is a terrible thing to feel alone: It is horrific to keep family at a distance or hide the fact that you truly hurt from those who are closest to you. For we all who have at some point experienced illness, it is important that we get educated, know that we do not bring these things upon ourselves and discuss them with family, friends, and doctors. Know that if we only will, there is no illness that is too big to conquer or no situation that is capable of breaking us beyond what we allow.

Today, I met someone who would become a lifelong friend. He broke his neck and spine last year in an accident. His lungs collapsed due to an untreated pneumonia infection and he lost all feeling because of his broken spine. The doctors told him he might not speak, or walk, or stand for the rest of his life. Now following a course of therapy, even if his speech is painfully blurred he talks. Even if his hands are slow and they constantly flail, he has regained function in them. Even if he does not walk steady, he stands, takes a few steps then sits again. Stories like these should give us hope; tell us that whatever life throws at us, if we are so willed we would conquer, succeed and that we are truly not limited by anything beyond ourselves.

Feel free to share in the comments experiences that keep you hopeful. If you prefer, leave me a mail  ( and I promise to respond to each one.


  1. Nice piece and word of encouragement!!!

  2. An inspirational piece.... Touching story

  3. Thanks. I'm inspired. Will learn to share problems, not just illnesses but others to those close to me.

    1. Really, it is important we share these things with family, in its own way, it is opening ourselves up.