Within a week, I was booked in hospital to remove the two lumps. During the operation, the surgeon actually found a third smaller lump which wasn't detected by the mammogram. All of the three lumps were removed and taken to the pathologist. Two days later, on a Saturday, I went with my husband to pick my biopsy results --- and it was a done deal --- All the three lumps were cancerous!!! We read the report several times – even thinking the pathologist may have made a mistake, I walked back to his office and asked him again whether the results were actually mine – for I had never, ever, in my life thought that one day I could suffer from such a deadly disease!
We sat in the car for almost an hour and no one was talking – I was confused at the same time unfeeling. When we reached home, I rushed to check what the encyclopedia had on "ductal carcinoma" – the type of cancer I was diagnosed with. The reality started sinking in – I cried uncontrollably and wanted to be alone.
On Monday, I took the results to my doctor who advised me not to waste any more time but to go direct to Uganda Cancer Institute and start treatment. I had never been to Mulago Hospital as a patient and had heard how many dreaded seeking treatment from Mulago Hospital, but now it was my turn. I had everyone giving his or her own advice; trying to be helpful – others telling me to take herbs which 'cure cancer' while others took me to different churches where I was smeared with Olive Oil as a cancer healing medicine!
Shortly before I had the biopsy done, I accepted the Lord Jesus as my personal savior; I became a born again Christian. This helped me a lot in accepting the situation I was in and appreciated God for having unveiled this cancer sooner than later – to me – I knew - God still wanted me to live!
I started my treatment journey at the Uganda Cancer Institute in March. After opening the file, I was given a lot of investigations to do – such as heart, blood tests, liver functions, bone scan, abdominal scan, chest x-ray, etc. These tests were costly.
After a week, I took back all the results and was advised by my oncologist on my treatment plan. He made it clear to me that I would have mastectomy (complete removal of my breast) during the treatment. I was started on chemotherapy and was to receive six (6) cycles (doses) – one every after 3 weeks. Chemotherapy is the administration of several drugs intravenously. These drugs are quite strong and have numerous side effects like vomiting, loss of appetite, general weakness, discolouring of nails, hair loss, etc.
When I went for my first chemo treatment, I was at least told by the nurse who treated me that I would be bold by the time I came back for the next cycle; and this helped prepare my mind to what to expect. Indeed, I started experiencing the side effects. Shortly after the drug entered my body, I started vomiting! When I reached home, I was so dizzy and continued feeling sick and weak. I could hardly eat or drink but had to force myself to. After 5 days, I started feeling a bit better and strong. The next time I came for my chemo, I was told that my blood level was low and had to be transfused! From then till the end of chemo, I stepped up my eating in or¬der to avoid being transfused again!
After the 4th cycle, my oncologist asked me to do further tests – more or less the ones I had done before but also another mammogram. The mammo results revealed that I had two lumps in the left breast – which never showed in the first mammogram. These results were very shocking and I was at a loss with words! I took my oncologist to task – to explain to me whether I was on the right treatment and if so, why then was I getting more lumps or was I not responding to the treatment at all? His only answer was "that's the mystery of cancer".
Instead of having only the right breast removed, I was now told that I was to have bilateral mastectomy (both breasts had to be removed at ago). I had gotten used to the idea of remaining with one breast, but now the thought or losing both threw me off balance – sent me to the bottom of the sea! My dear husband had been all this time with me and when the verdict was made – I remember his words solidly – "I and the children love and need you Margaret – with or without breasts. You can survive without breasts but the reverse is not true"! His words were comforting but I still sought the Lord's intervention in my situation through prayers. I eventually agreed to the operation which was done within a week at Mulago Hospital.
"I knew I was stepping in there and coming out alive"
In July, 2007, before the operation, courtesy of my surgeon, I was visited by one lady who counseled me and allayed the fears I had, especially with mastectomy. On the day of the operation, I told my mum and all my relatives who were in the room that "I am stepping in there and getting out alive" for I had faith and trust in the Lord for complete healing. It was a major operation and I believe it was successful. After I was returned to my room, the pain was unbearable, my whole chest was bandaged and I felt like it was on fire! But with medication, the pain subsided and after nine (9) days, I was discharged and went home to recuperate.
A month later, I went back to Uganda Cancer Institute to continue with my chemo treatment. I still had 2 more cycles to complete but my oncologist decided to add an extra one. So I had a total of 7 cycles.
After chemo, my oncologist referred me to the Radiotherapy Unit for radiation treatment.
At first I was scared – thinking that the "masanyalaze" as locally referred to – would actually roast me black! I also was scared of the monster machine. The treatment took five weeks – everyday, Monday to Friday. Immediate side effects are few compared to chemotherapy. I thank God - I didn't get serious reactions except darkening of the exposed body area to radiation.
In December, 2007, after I finished my radiotherapy
treatment, I was referred back to my oncologist who put me on hormonal therapy – Tamoxifen tablets – one per day - for five years. I have so far taken it for three and a half years. I am now fine, still happily married and grateful to be alive.
Presently, I am a Volunteer Counselor at the Uganda Cancer Institute. I counsel cancer victims and their families in order to bring hope to those newly diagnosed, undergoing treatment and post treatment that – all is not lost – you can live your after cancer treatment!
Firstly, I would like to thank the Almighty God for His Grace. He has seen me through the hardest times during my life and continues to shower me with good health, above all things.
Secondly, I would to extend my heartfelt thanks to all the doctors, nurses, and other health workers I have come in contact with at Abii Clinic, Uganda Cancer Institute, Surgery Department, Radiotherapy Unit, Nuclear Medicine and the Heart Institute at Mulago Hospital and all those who, in one way or the other, have contributed to my current wellbeing.
Thirdly, I would like to thank my dear husband, children, my Mum and all my relatives and friends for being there for me when I was at my very lowest in my life and for the love bond that exists between us.
May the Almighty God Bless you all!