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Keep keeping on…Advice from a Cancer Survivor!

botchway April 16, 2018

Source: Ghana | Myjoyonline.com| Rita Adumatta Berko, a Lawyer
My name is Mrs. Rita Adumatta Berko.  I am a Ghanaian married woman living in Ghana with my husband and son.  I am also a Christian and a product of the University of Science and Technology and the Ghana School of Law. My hobbies are baking and cake decoration. I am very reserved, studious and maybe your typical “busy body”, always active and up and doing. I believe in putting my very best in all I do and striving for excellence. I also love people, enjoy celebrating everyday events and helping others.   I was living a very vibrant, busy, happy and successful life as a Corporate Lawyer, when my life was suddenly disrupted by a strange illness.  This was in the last quarter of 2011. Amidst the hassle and buzzle of my then daily life, going to the hospital was one of least things I had time for. Once in a while I however had to do so or call a doctor friend to report various minor ailments, issues that one could easily gloss over or perceive to be unimportant.  For instance, I experienced minor itching, unexplained headaches, night sweats, bloating in the abdomen which I attributed to gas and minor weight loss. All these had reasonable explanations and were addressed by various simple medications. Moreover, they did not all occur simultaneously so I did not think they were worth worrying about. Then one day, I discovered a bulge on my neck which I made nothing of. I however went to see my doctor and after barely three weeks of medical investigations followed by tests, and tests, and tests, it was finally discovered that the swelling on my neck was actually a malignant lymph node, in short, the much dreaded “Cancer” of the lymph nodes i.e., Lymphoma. This was a major turning point in my life. I knew next to nothing about this disease and a whole new world was thrust upon me. I thought this only happened to others, or was only seen in films and story books.  The fact of being diagnosed with the disease itself, the huge cost involved and the attendant confusion was a devastating blow to my family and I. Before I could say “jack”, get over the shock and get used to the whole idea, I found myself face to face with chemotherapy with its attendant side effects and issues. My life style had to change to make way for the new “me”. Suddenly, I realized I was no longer in charge of my life, or how I could live my life. Various issues emerged from the treatment; my body’s response to same, the loss of physical strength, changes in my social and family life and diet were seriously affected. I have seen it all, from getting completely bald three times over, suffering from general weakness, sore mouth, severe constipation and severe diarrhea, malnutrition, being bed-ridden, pain, depression, skin rashes, body sores and emotional despair! It has been over five years of storms, uncertainties, pain, tears and frustrations from all avenues. In spite of all that, I have also experienced great love, remarkable strength and enjoyed daily miracles in the past five years which I believe has made me a better and stronger person today. Most of all it has positively affected my walk with the Lord and increased my faith in God. How did I make it to date? Looking back, I wonder how I survived. The grace of God is the resounding answer!!! God used my immediate family and the various people I encountered over the last few years to ease the pain, provide for me, urge me on and keep faith alive. He took me through one day at a time. Yes, there were the sleepless nights, the agony of not responding to treatment and moments of despair.            In all, I have undergone five different types of Chemotherapy treatments, total body radiation and crowned it all with a bone marrow transplant from an unknown and unrelated donor in the United States of America. In the midst of it all I took to writing as a way of reasoning with myself, letting out the many different feelings and issues I was battling with in my mind, encouraging myself and “counting the pennies” in my life, as one nurse once told me to do. She said if I could “count my pennies each day”, (i.e. celebrate the little progress made each day), I would soon find out that I have a jar full of “good money” worth millions. I kept counting the pennies; small things like being able to use the bathroom by myself, having a sound sleep, drinking a cup of water, eating half a meal, sitting or standing on my own, enjoying the visit of a friend or relative, receiving a phone call and laughing on the one hand, as well as the major milestones like getting improved lab results, reducing medications one at a time, stopping getting daily blood transfusions and various electrolytes. etc., were all celebrated.
I finally decided to publish my writings to publicly celebrate how far I had come, encourage other people going through similar problems and above all thank the Almighty God for His surpassing grace. The book was launched at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Accra, Ghana, on the 20th of May, 2016.  My Advice to all? Health Wise: Be in control of your health. You know your body best. Do not take minor issues or ailments for granted. Seek answers and do not be shy of going back to the doctor or seeking second opinions. Seek early treatment if (God Forbid) you are ever confronted with any sign of this disease. I am told early treatment is one of the key factors to good results. Undertake regular check-ups, especially mammograms and pap smears to catch any sign of other known forms of cancer like breast and cervical cancer. It may be closer than you think. Cancer is no respecter of persons old or young, rich or poor and can catch up with anyone. Do not think “it cannot happen to me”. One never knows. We all hope and pray that it does not affect us, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Show love and care to others. Little acts of love may go a long way or mean so much to others in need, than you may ever know.   … And keep faith alive no matter what. God has promised that “His grace is sufficient for us”. Generally Keep Keeping On. I coined this slogan; “Keep Keeping On” translated in the Ghanaian Twi language as; “Kosuaaa koso”, when I was drafting my speech for the recent launch of my book entitled;  “Blessed and Highly Favoured – Testimony of a Cancer Survivor”. This book is about the story of my life before and after being diagnosed with this lymphoma, a kind of cancer of the blood, in 2011. It recounts details of my struggles, fears, hopes and survival through the years up to date. It’s been a long and hideous journey but one thing I have learnt over the last few years is to “Keep Keeping On”, no matter how difficult the journey is. Holding your head high and keeping faith alive is easier said than done and I will not pretend that this grace was obtained on a silver platter. It is through this very ordeal that I have come to know of God’s Amazing Grace and the power of His sufficiency for every situation.  … and to all Fabulous Women out there, I say let’s “Keep Keeping On”. Cheers!

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