Cancer in Nigeria: 'My wife would still be alive had she got treatment'

10 November, 2020

This personal story on BBC news is sadly just one among thousands, not only in Nigeria but worldwide.

Extracts below. Full text here:


My journey to widowerhood began three years ago in an oncologist's office in Nigeria's capital, Abuja.

Had my wife, Grace, followed the doctor's advice rather than seek the help of religious healers, I believe that she would have survived breast cancer and still be with me and our three-year-old daughter.

She had gone for tests on a large lump on her breast and the doctor said they had revealed that there was an "invasive carcinoma".

... But on my way to the pharmacy to buy the first set of chemotherapy drugs, Grace called to tell me that she was not going to proceed. Rather she had faith that God would heal her...

Most Nigerians are very religious and when it comes to health issues many prefer to seek help from places of worship rather than the hospital...

We also explored traditional treatments, recommended by friends and relations.

Finally, in November Grace's painful headaches indicated that the cancer had spread to her brain and she went into a coma and never woke up.

She died at the age of 33...

I started a Facebook page in Grace's memory and to try and raise awareness about cancer, as it seemed to me that many in Nigeria did not know much about it.

People need to be better informed about the best means of managing the disease and more money needs to be spent on getting this message across to ordinary people.

I still hear stories, including that of the wife of a friend of mine, of people refusing chemotherapy in favour of religious healing.

Yes, religion and our traditions still have a very big role to play in our lives, but that should not come at the cost of losing a love one.


Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: