What She Said: After Surviving Cervical Cancer, I Just Want Peace

June 9, 2021


The subject of this week’s What She Said, is a 25-year-old woman who has been through so much and would just like to be at peace for the rest of her life. She talks about how unlucky she’s been with friends, her tense relationship with her mother, beating cervical cancer, and how therapy helped her figure out life. 

What’s your earliest memory of your childhood? 

When I fell into a gutter and broke my leg because I was trying not to get caught playing with the neighbours’ children. I was five. 

Why didn’t you want to get caught playing with them? 

My parents are weird. They didn’t want us to have any friends. My mum, especially, thought the neighbours were witches, so she didn’t want us to play with them.

Damn. Does that mean you didn’t have friends? 

I actually didn’t. I was shy, had social anxiety and was too terrified of my parents to try making any. Then I started university, and the friends I had were not that great. 

I got into a private university in Benin City when I was just 13, which is quite early, so I tried to keep my head down and focus on my studies. 

My friends, however, constantly made fun of me. They picked on my weight, which eventually made me anorexic. Looking back, I see that we were all insecure children trying to find our way, but I don’t think I’ll ever forgive them. 

Wow. They must have been really awful. 

Yes. They did so many bad things to me. They put weed in my food once, and I blacked out. When I woke up, I was naked in bed with one of my friends. She might have assaulted me; I’m not sure. I just remember my nipples being sore and wet, nothing more. I was only 13.

The second time they drugged me, I was in my second year. They were experimenting with a random pill and were too scared to try it themselves, so they put it in my drink and only told me after I drank it. All I remember was being very happy and floaty and then waking up in a hotel room. 

I finally snapped when one of them raped my boyfriend. 

I’m sorry, what? 

I was 16 then. I had a boyfriend whom I was happy with, but one of my friends wasn’t happy about it. She told my boyfriend she would be better than me in bed because I’m frigid, unfeeling and like firewood. She eventually drugged him, raped him, made a video, and then showed the video to me. 

When I confronted her, she said she was tired of seeing me get men’s attention though I hardly socialised or made an effort. 

After the entire incident, I cut off the entire friendship group. I also broke up with him. I think it’s one of the saddest things in my past, one of the things I’m most embarrassed about. 

So all of this coupled with the fact that I had an eating disorder, anxiety and severe depression that was making me skip exams, my parents decided to transfer me to a university in Uganda to finish medical school. 

Wait, how did your parents go from “no friends” to “let’s send our daughter to a new country”? 

My parents are complicated. My mother is a mix of feminism and misogyny. She’s all for getting your own education, but get it so your husband will be proud of you.

She was the one that pushed me to travel to Uganda when I wanted to drop out of med school. When I wanted to drop out of med school, she instead brought up schooling in Uganda. She had been bragging to her friends about me being in medical school and didn’t want to deal with the embarrassment. 

Also, she was in Tanzania, so she wasn’t too far from me. 

I thought your family lived in Nigeria? 

My family moves around a lot. For most of my time in medical school, my mum was perambulating around East Africa: Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, a truly disastrous stint in Uganda, then to Burundi.

I’m pretty sure my dad is in Ghana right now, but a few weeks ago, he was in South Africa. My brother is in Cotonou; I’m in Uganda. My sister is the only one still in Nigeria. 

Wow. What made your mum’s stint in Uganda disastrous?

She got me in an arranged engagement with an already married man, and when I refused, she disowned me. 

Excuse me? 

I have trouble confronting my mum. When she and the man set up the engagement, I just sat there. I didn’t want to cause a conflict, so I just let it go on. It went on for four months. I had seen him just twice and spoken to him for about an hour. I don’t know how my mum expected me to marry someone I had just spoken to for an hour. 

One Saturday morning, his wife sent a text to inform me that she was married to the man. She also mentioned she had gotten three abortions for him because he said he never wanted kids. I found that strange because a few weeks before, he got the spare key to my house from my mother, showed up without my permission and demanded we start having children immediately. 

My friend and I decided to search social media for pictures of him and his wife, and we found some. I compiled a whole folder and sent it to my mum. She told me his wife was just jealous, and I should carry on with the engagement. 

How did you get out of it?

My mum set up a meeting with all three of us. Me, her and the man. She told me that she’d already told people I was getting married, so breaking it off would be a disgrace to her. 

I yelled at her, she yelled at me, he yelled at me for yelling at her. He told me I disappointed him, and I told him he was possessed to think I cared about what he thought. 

She disowned me then I moved houses and did not inform anyone where the house was. For like two months, I was living free in my own peace, until she randomly sent me money one day. She called me to find out if I had gotten the alert and said she missed me. 

We never had a proper discussion about what happened during those months or what caused her to make that decision. 

Wow. That was a lot. What was schooling in Uganda like? 

For one, there’s nobody out to get you. If you read your books, you pass. My favourite part of it, however, is the freedom. In Uganda, I have learnt to see people first and religion and tribe last. 

Second favourite thing is how I was able to finally discover my sexuality. Uganda was where I finally figured out women and went nuts. Uganda was my first time being really away from my family, and I loved it. It helped me come to terms with all that had happened in my past. 

How did it do that? 

My school gave us medical insurance, and it came with four free psych visits per month.  I went a couple of times, and the therapist forced me to face a lot about myself. 

Therapy is great for me. It’s given me helpful coping tools to deal with my harmful behaviours, and I love that I get to talk about things and get them out of my head.

The process, however, is very painful. I hate it. The past is painful and addressing it in therapy made me realise that a lot of the things I do are a result of being repeatedly traumatised by the people I trust.

I recently discovered that I was circumcised. Apparently, when I was younger, I stayed with an aunt while my parents travelled. One night while I slept, she cut off my clit. Because of that, I’m always tense in my sleep, as if I’m expecting to be attacked. Everything is a trauma response for me. From the way I walk, to the way I sleep. The first week of therapy left me really depressed. 

I am so sorry. Do you ever think of returning to Nigeria? 

I was supposed to move back in 2020, but because of Corona and the fact that I had cervical cancer again, I couldn’t come back. 

Cervical cancer again?

In 2018, I went for a pap smear and noticed I had a precancerous cervical lesion. It got treated, and I moved on. 

Then in late 2019, I had a couple of bad periods that lasted about two weeks and were very heavy. It was so bad, I fainted. So, I went in for a pap smear. Imagine my surprise when they told me my lesion was back and this time it was full-blown cancer. 

In 2020, I got chemotherapy and a trachelectomy. I’m still in recovery but got the all-clear from my oncologist. 

I’m so sorry. Do you ever regret not dropping out of medical school? 

No, my job is fun as hell. I am an obstetrician and a gynaecologist, but I love obstetrics more. 

Do you want any children?

I actually can’t stand children. I’ve seen far too many women die bringing kids into the world. These women have already gotten pregnant; the least I can do is actually help them get the children out alive. 

What keeps you going? 

I’m not a very hopeful person, and 2020 took a lot out of me, so I just want peace. One day, I want the inside of my head to be quiet. No arguments between my self-esteem and my brain. Just quiet. 

That’s not to say I don’t have little sparks of joy in my life. They’re not even little. More like explosions of joy. My blood sisters and the sisters I made by choice give me joy. 

Whenever babies take their first breath, every successful cesarean, successful vagina delivery, managed miscarriage. Every morning when I run up the same four flights of stairs I used to be wheeled up for chemo and blood transfusions without being out of breath. These things give me joy. 

I’m in a relationship now, and they make me so fucking happy. These are the things I love and look forward to. 

For more stories like this, check out our #WhatSheSaid and for more women like content, please click here

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

December 20, 2021

Christmas is the season to give gifts to people including those you have hurt. Who knows, maybe your gifts will communicate your apologies better than your words can. Here are a list of gift ideas for a lover you are cheating on: 

9 African Women Talk About Breastfeeding
March 12, 2021

If you were on Twitter last week, breastfeeding was a trending topic, thanks to this video. It was an important conversation that I intended to continue, so I asked African women to share their breastfeeding experiences with me. Here’s what nine of them had to say.  Thelma, 28, Nigerian  I had a traumatic labour and […]

March 30, 2021

Some men are going to read the title of the article and lose their shit, we are sorry, or maybe not. We’ve read in a couple of articles that sex toys are supposed to support men and not compete with them but this is not one of those articles. Here are a few reasons why […]

Watch

Now on Zikoko

Recommended Quizzes

how much of an ajebutter
February 12, 2020

Are you an ajebutter or not? Well, if you’ve gone through life blissfully unaware of its harshness, then you probably are. Now, we want to know just how high you rank on that ajebutter scale, using your food preferences as a (very accurate) measure. Take to find out:

October 30, 2019

2010 was a game-changing one for Nollywood, with our movies making serious cash and getting international acclaim. So, which of these hits released between 2010 and 2019 — from the pace-setting The Wedding Party to the divisive Trip To Jamaica — best suits your personality? Well, that’s what this quiz is here to answer:

how tall are you
March 11, 2020

Did your parents give you enough beans when you were growing up? If they did, then you’re probably around 6’0″ and above. Either way, we created a quiz that can guess your current height (pretty accurately, if we do say so ourselves). Take to see if we nailed it:

November 14, 2019

The fourth season of Big Brother Naija came to an end over a month ago, but the conversation surrounding the housemates is far from over. So, in a bid to keep the fire burning, we decided to create a quiz that tells you which famous member of the ‘Pepper Dem’ gang is your soulmate. Take […]

More from Her

January 26, 2022

Black don’t crack, black don’t crack but they won’t tell you all the things they do a maintain that gorgeousness. Because we are so generous so we compiled a list of health care tips for 30+ women.

January 22, 2022

African music has always had its place at the top of the global music industry. These days, with tech switching up the scene and genres blending, everyone keep bringing their A game especially these six female African artistes. 

Read here:

Watch

Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.
X