Take Me Home

That is is the title of my very first recorded song. (Yay Linda!)

I’ve always loved music. I sing in the car, in the shower, in the kitchen,….if I’m not singing I have music playing.

Recording a song is something I always wanted to do. It’s one of those things that I told myself that I’d do one day. But I never acted on it.

Getting diagnosed with cancer reminded me that I will never have enough time to do the things I tell myself I will do ‘one day’. It’s now or never. And so one day, just after I’d started chemo, I started writing words I was feeling. I then called to make an appointment with a producer, Kaz Kasozi, one night while I was in bed, eager to get my foot in while I still had the nerve. And so the minute I felt well enough, I went to his ‘Little Room Studio’. I was by myself, still unsure of what I was doing, apprehensive of the fact that someone who’d worked with professionals would not want to work with me. But he was so easy to work with it made the process worth it.

And finally, 4 sessions, 5 months later I had a song!

Initially, I made this song for myself -as a reminder of what I’d been through. As a token to myself for going through it. But now, I’ve decided to share, and I hope that you appreciate the meaning behind this song, and that it touches you, and makes you feel things 🙂

Please share share share!

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Links (I’ll edit as more links become available) 

Available on

YouTube

Sound Cloud 

Amazon

itunes

Google Play

http://phonofile.link/take-me-home-1

 

 

 

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A sigh of relief

5th May 2017. The day I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. My Cancer-versary.  Anyway, I still remember this day like it was yesterday. The bad weather, the excitement I had for my evening, and then Baaam! (The Diagnosis)

15th April 2018. The day Dr. Okuku finally said the words I’d been dying to hear as he looked through my test results, “Linda, you’re ok, you’re free of cancer. Relax.”

I’d been waiting for test results from Nairobi for about 5 months. They call it a FISH test. I’m going to get a little technical here. My cancer was ER+ (estrogen-receptor-positive). My cancer’s growth was being fed by estrogen hence the need for hormonal therapy for a while to block the source of food for my cancer. (I’m still on this treatment). So to determine if I’d need another specific type of treatment, my HER2 protein levels also needed to be checked. Depending on what the HER2 result was, I’d need to go on another treatment for a whole year. The doctor had previously mentioned that I’d probably have to estimate 25k$ for this treatment (I always hoped he was exaggerating).

Now, the not so good news is the results were ‘Equivocal’. This basically means they are non-conclusive. It could be because the tissue had been kept for such a long time. The good news though was that this test was the final ‘just incase’. I’d already done all the necessary things I needed to do for my Stage 1 BC; surgery (double check) – chemotherapy (check) – radiotherapy (check) – hormonal therapy (still on check) – meditation (this is an extra 🙂 ) According to Dr. Okuku, the storm is over.

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you know whamsayin’

I had been having this nagging feeling for a while – “What will I do if the FISH test comes back positive?” It’s something I’d think about almost every night. So I was mindlessly glad to finally sleep well that weekend.

If you see me smiling to myself, don’t ask questions, just fall in. I’m happy. My life’s button just went on reset and I’m going to use it well.

Even though it’s officially over, I still have loads to share so keep an eye on my blog 🙂 I love you! (Blergh, that sounded off. I don’t know how white people say it so comfortably)

 

 

‘Put a cork in it’

Ugandans are lovely people. So much so that they aren’t aware of the thin line between asking a question in innocence and being downright rude. This is a typical scenario between two people.

Innocent Ugandan: Eh Emily, long time no see.

Emily (obviously): Yeah, I’ve been busy with work and stuff

Innocent Ugandan: Oh okay….But what is happening to you?

Emily: What do you mean?

Innocent Ugandan: You’re really getting fat

Emily: (visibly uncomfortable) Hmm….Yeah, maybe it’s peace of mind

Innocent Ugandan: Bambi its too much. Oba you’re also over eating? Do you even walk?.

Now, this could go on for a while until someone interrupts the conversation or Innocent Ugandan runs out of inappropriate things to say.

Unfortunately, this is not considered rude in Uganda.

I can’t count how many people have asked me whether I eat with a straight face. And it’s disappointing that they don’t get the sarcasm when I respond, “No, I survive on a strict diet of meditation and water.”

Where am I going with this?

The day before my first chemotherapy treatment I was a mess. I was supposed to have started a week earlier but couldn’t because my immune system wasn’t strong enough to handle the medication. I’d lost a lot of weight (shocker) after my diagnosis and surgery, mainly attributed to the worrying and stress, so on top of everything else my mind was fraught with worry about what the treatment would further do to my already frail frame. I remember I was at work, trying to get my affairs in order before I had to leave. I’d spent my lunch break at the hospital getting tests done and the doctor had already prepared me for the damage that I should gear up for. To be frank, I was scared.

And then, this girl I used to work with came by to the office and she’s like, (in typical innocent Ugandan mode) “Eh Linda, where have you been? It’s been a while! Naye, is it just me or have you lost weight. I think maybe you’ve stopped eating…..hehehe”

Dear reader, my mind went blank. I only had one thought – ‘It’ official, chemo is going to kill me!’ I remember she was smiling, and I was just looking at her. I felt suffocated, hot, constipated even, it’s hard to describe the instantaneous shift my body took. I finally understood what it felt like to get a panic attack. My fingers started trembling so I left my desk and walked to the ladies room. I broke down. I couldn’t even drive myself home that evening. It was the perfect scenario of ‘Great, just what I needed to hear!’ (PS: this is sarcasm)

My point is this. Let’s be careful about the comments we make to others. Sometimes we make them in jest and it’s all good. But other times you have no idea what demons people are dealing with. So the next time you want to make a snide remark about someone’s weight, hair, clothes or mood, ask yourself , “Will my ‘clever’ remark add value to this ones life or Am I just being a dick?” It’s usually the latter.

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Such a tough decision

Surgery no.2 – Part 2

It’s a strange feeling. To be so relieved about something yet worried that maybe another option should have been considered.

I woke up groggy and dry mouthed, my mum and sister’s friend (Nice) hovering over me. I’d hardly opened my eyes when I heard Nice exclaim, “Letitia, you still have your breasts!”

I consider myself very lucky. After the swelling had gone down from the second surgery, one can hardly tell that I’m a breast cancer survivor. No, I’m not posting any boob selfies. You may have to wait for my phone to get stolen – I’m sure the thief will leak them, they’re quite a number. 

So this what happened. It appeared that most of the cancerous tumor had been removed at the first operation. And after I’d started hormonal therapy (a life saving pill, called Tamoxifen, that is now  my daily ritual), any possible growth that could have occurred was hindered. Therefore, when Professor Wasike and his team ‘dug’ in, there wasn’t much to remove hence not necessitating the mastectomy that I’d been dreading. Better still, lymph node samples were removed from my armpit on the right side and the tests showed that there was no spread. The surgery was a big success!

Sometimes I read up on recurrence rates and I can’t help but wonder if I shouldn’t have just gone with the double mastectomy route, you know, like Angelina Jolie. But my doctors tell me there would have been no basis for that, that I should count myself lucky: It was caught early and it hadn’t spread. I should count my blessings and live better.

And so I did, and still do to this day.

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My very own love letter

Dear 2018 Linda,

It’s a new year. You made it.

I love the feeling of hope we all have just because the dates are changing. It’s the same feeling I used to get on my birthday. Excited to ‘start afresh’ (as if – rolling eyes) and eager for what the next year will bring. It’s like, because the year is changing, magically life will give you a break, it’ll stop being such a grouch and finally listen to what you want. Because the year is changing, we have carte blanche to make a list, throw it to the sky and wait to reap. Ahhhh…such a lovely time.

ICapture.PNG love the new year. I almost never follow through on many of my resolutions but I like to make them anyway.

Obviously this year has been difficult for me and those around me…It started with so much hope and then it got carried away and became…well….life. And as cliché as this sounds..hard times do teach endurance. In oneself and in those around you. Hard times make you realise what and who is important.

That being said, I’m not saying I’m wiser now but I feel that as you go into the next year, I could teach you a thing or two:

  1. You’re stronger than you look. Don’t let your size deceive you.
  2. You have amazing people around you. Treasure them . Your family, your friends, your workmates, treasure them all.
  3. Get in tune with your spiritual self. You need to be strong on the inside for any amount of hugs and warm thoughts from others to be able to help you when life becomes scary.
  4. Don’t be so superficial. In the end, it doesn’t really matter.
  5. There will always be people who don’t understand you or the things that you do. That’s ok. Continue to be true to what makes you happy.
  6. If you feel like doing something. Do it! (Within reason of course) But don’t waste time stopping yourself from living just because you’re afraid. You honestly mostly regret the actions you didn’t take.
  7. For heaven’s sake, eat better!
  8. If someone attempts to teach you something new, please pay attention and learn it. (This mostly goes to that dance lesson you badly need)
  9. Say ‘Yes’ to as many opportunities as possible.
  10. This list is pretty lame but hey, sometimes its the lame shit that’ll keep you sane.

 

Goodbye my sweet, and good luck!

Love,

2017 Linda (I’m glad I’m gone for good)

Surgery no. 2 – Part 1

The last thing I remember as the general anesthesia entered my system was making one last plea with the doctor, ‘I believe in you doctor, you’ll save both my life and my precious one’ (i admit, I was legit guilt tripping the man)

I still remember how nervous I was that morning at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. It was a chilly Thursday morning on the 29th June. I had just returned from my holiday and was ‘ready’ to face the surgeons blade for a second operation, this time with more implications that the former one.

I had visited Professor Ronald Wasike a month prior. A happy doctor if there ever was one. He is a specialist in Breast Cancer surgery and as per my research, a proponent for breast conservation surgery in the treatment of breast cancer. Dear reader, by now it should be pretty obvious what my concerns were, so his confidence and attentive nature were enough to allay my fears.

However, while he and his team would try to achieve a clean result (aka.keep the titties as intact as possible), he made it clear that as much as they would use frozen section procedure (read about it here) in order to figure out to what extent of the cancer they were removing, if the first  removal of tissue still showed positive margins (read The Diagnosis-Part 2), he would have no option but to perform a full mastectomy. He even gave me a fatherly pep talk that morning because it seemed like he knew what I should be prepared for.

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Please Doctor….abeg!

Knowing this to be a real possibility, I’d spent the previous evening reading up on what I should prepare for, physically and emotionally, if our worst case scenario became my reality. I wanted to wake up from the operation prepared. I even did research on what type of breast reconstruction I’d opt for. It was interesting to learn that its not as simple as the regular boob job and for this reason some women choose not to have one done after their mastectomy  incase you’re wondering, I settled for ‘implant reconstruction'(use of an implant filled with saline/silicon) because I don’t have enough idle fat on my body for the ‘flap reconstruction’ option (use of tissue from another part of your body). Either way, I wanted to have options for when I woke up.

Four hours later I found out.

 

 

Decisions Decisions…..

As I had been informed by Dr. Okuku  (The Diagnosis – Part 2) and the other doctors I spoke to in the weeks following my diagnosis, one thing was clear, I needed another operation to cut out whatever cancer had remained after the first surgery. The question now was, where should I get it done? I did alot of research on where I should get it done. I had the below to consider:

  • There’s a thing called tumour to breast size ratio – If you have small breasts (like yours truly) and the tumour is significantly large, then the doctors normally advise that it would be best to have a clean cut (mastectomy) instead of attempting to save the breast and make a mess of it.
  • Having a mastectomy is not a 100% guarantee. If you are unlucky, you can have one on one breast and it returns on another in the future. Or you can get rid of both of them and it turns up elsewhere. Having one though, does reduce the chances of re-occurrence because …you know…there’s nothing for it to materialize in again.
  • The Genetic test. It’s a type of testing used to look for inherited gene mutations that might put a person at higher risk of getting certain kinds of cancer.  The American Cancer support site explains it in the simplest way. If you are positive for this test then yes, it is advisable to have the double mastectomy even if the cancer has only appeared in one. If you do this test out of curiosity and it turns out positive then you should be careful with your health. PS: I haven’t done this test;1)It’s bloody expensive 2)I figure I should be careful regardless anyway.
  • The surgery could be done using Frozen Section Procedure. It’s basically, the examination of tissue while surgery is taking place. This was probably the number 1 reason why I opted to have the second operation in Nairobi. Uganda’s hospitals do not offer this. If you are interested in not going the full mastectomy route, then the doctors have to keep cutting and testing to figure if they’re getting rid of everything.
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You don’t want this to happen

Unlike the first surgery I’d had done, I now had something real to be concerned about so I was very careful about what my next step was. So, with the help of a Doctor friend of one of my sister’s, I made an appointment at the Agha Khan University hospital in Nairobi, Kenya to see a highly recommended surgeon.