Breast cancer

The doctors said there were abnormal cells found in my breast that had some cancer characteristics, but they had not yet spread into other tissues or organs.

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My husband left me after I lost my breast to cancer

Shumi Abdallah Bakari was 53 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now 63, the Tanzanian-born Lamu resident spoke to the Nation about her journey and how her husband of ten years divorced her after hearing news of her cancer diagnosis.

This is her story:

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. I used to feel a small, hard, and painless lump on my left breast. I became suspicious about it and consulted one of my in-laws who is a medic.

She advised me to visit the hospital for breast cancer screening.

I went to the Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital in Mombasa City, where doctors proposed the removal of the lump in my breast.

Because they didn’t have the equipment, I sought the services of a private hospital within Mombasa. An operation was conducted and the lump was successfully removed.

They, however, did further tests and realised that I had breast cancer which was at stage 0.

My relatives were very cooperative. They contributed money to enable me to travel to the Ocean Road Cancer Institute in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It’s an established State-owned medical facility managed by Tanzania’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

A series of tests were conducted, including imaging, mammogram screenings, and analysis of tissue samples taken during breast biopsy. The tests confirmed I had early-stage breast cancer at stage 0, often called pre-cancer, pre-invasive cancer, or breast carcinoma in situ.

The doctors said there were abnormal cells found in my breast that had some cancer characteristics, but they had not yet spread into other tissues or organs.

They outlined various treatment regimes, including surgery, radiation therapy, and hormone therapies. They also suggested breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy) that would involve removing the area of the breast with abnormal cells.

Another suggestion was a mastectomy to remove the entire breast. My doctors recommended mastectomy and hormonal treatment because the cancer was still in its early stages.

This option, I was told, was also valuable in preventing reoccurrence of the cancer.

The doctors asked me to take the shortest time possible to decide on the method of treatment to curb further spread of the cancer. I agreed to the mastectomy since what I was determined to save my life and health.

The surgery was scheduled and done in early May 2016. And that’s how I lost my left breast.

After the surgery, I was put on hormonal therapy, which involved taking tablets every day for five years. The medicine came with side effects, including hot flushes, mood swings, and general weakness. It was however all worth it.

After the treatment, I informed my husband about the fact that my breast had been removed.

Before then, he used to be very supportive both financially and psychologically.

But the days after I had informed my spouse about the mastectomy, I started noticing some changes. There was an unusual silence. By then, I was still in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He no longer called me. He became less concerned.

I returned to Lamu to proceed with life. After witnessing the continued silence from my husband, I called him to ask what was next. That’s how he broke the news to me that he wanted to divorce me. He didn’t even bother coming to me to see how the breast was removed and the state of my chest. He simply divorced and abandoned me, just like that.

But I thank Allah. I stayed focused and hopeful. I religiously used the drugs I was given. I also ensured I attended all the check-ups as advised by my doctors.

I was told the cancer went into remission after the surgery. I have lived a cancer-free life for the past seven years now.”