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‘Cut off the womb!’ — Nigerian journalist recounts battle with breast cancer, fibroid

Ruona Meyer, a Nigerian investigative journalist, has narrated her struggle with breast cancer and how she successfully underwent treatment while studying on scholarship for her doctorate degree.

The award-winning media professional, who has worked for the BBC, shared her story on Wednesday in a lengthy Twitter thread which she stated was meant to empower Nigerians and ward off demeaning stereotypes that make many give up on treatment.

Meyer said the condition had initially started off on account of her protracted battle with fibroid but she eventually had her womb removed for fear of carcinogenesis in a move which later came through as inconsequential.

What marked her story as impressive is the cheerful demeanor she maintained as she underwent chemotherapy for several months, opting for bilateral breast removal in a bid to tackle the cancer that had eventually plagued her bosoms.

“A year ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Jan 5 to mid-June I had chemotherapy. July 10, I opted for a full mastectomy and declined implants. I’ve been in remission since July 18. To start this awareness thread, here’s me on my last day of chemo!” Meyer wrote.

I always had really bad fibroids – inherited from Mum’s family, along with the slim figure. In 2015, I had to have yet another operation. The doctor said fibroids were too big, so he literally reached behind his desk gave me a drug to reduce them.”

Meyer recounted how her doctor had prescribed “Esmya”, a drug to reduce her fibroids, before undergoing surgery to avoid risking hysterectomy, a surgical operation to remove all or part of the uterus, only for its side effects to include “cancer risk.”

Refusing to risk breast cancer just to reduce fibroid, Meyer initially rejected the drug but later started taking it when the doctor convinced her that she had no dense tissue in her breasts and, hence, faces a low risk of developing the disease.

However, two weeks after, the drug caused hair growth on her nipple, an anomaly that made her discontinue the drug against the doctor’s recommendation. She added that she couldn’t bear the thought of “pouring acid” on herself “to” ease a burn.”

“He asked if there’s breast cancer in my family. I said no. He did a breast check and said I had no dense tissue in my breast and shouldn’t worry. The risk is small, compared to the fibroids squishing my organs. Na so I enter one chance,” Meyer wrote.

“I started taking Esmya, and two weeks later, hair started growing on one nipple. I stopped immediately, told Oga Doctor. He said if I did at least 8 weeks, it would really help reduce the fibroids. Said to continue. I said no. He said my operation would be risky.”

Although she was told to continue with the drug until “at least 8 weeks” to significantly reduce fibroid and lower the risks of her surgery, Meyer rather opted for removing her womb instead of getting breast cancer from fibroid treatment.

“If this can cause hairy nips in 2 weeks, I don’t want to know what else it will do. Doc continued singing ‘operation would be risky’. I turn to OT Genasis and sing ‘CUT IT! Cut off the womb!’ Rather be womb-less than get cancer via fibroids!,” she said.

But, unlike she expected, a lump was later discovered in the breast in a development that turned out to be cancer —precisely six weeks after she had discontinued the drug. Although the doctor claimed it was only a cyst when she complained.

“I was diagnosed with Herceptin positive DCIS cancer on 4 Dec 2019. I was more relieved than scared at that exact moment. Because it validated my anxiety and symptoms. You are not a hypochondriac. You are not mad. You have to be your own advocate.”

“When my EXTRA-SUPPORTIVE supervisors maintained that they were retaining my PhD scholarship, I had a goal to strive for. They treated me like they knew I was going to get through this. I continued to work, shifted my chemo to allow my award travels,” she said.

The 37-year-old has also bagged journalistic plaques including the 2019 One World Media Awards and the ‘Nigerian Investigative Journalist of the Year’ with the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism in 2013.

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