If you have ever had a loved one suffer from Breast Cancer, then you know the pain and heartache it creates. My mom and my aunt both died from BC. My cousin has had it in both breasts. I have many friends who have been treated and some who are undergoing treatment as I write this. I know I can get a mamogram each year. I know how to do a self-exam. But the truth is, the thought of breast cancer is still scary.
A year ago, when I began thinking about doing a breast cancer awareness program here in Ghana, I knew some of the myths behind BC in the villages here. Often unexplained illnesses are blamed on evil spirits or witchcraft. I didn’t know there could be so many more misconceptions. “Can wearing a bra cause breast cancer?” “Can putting money in your bra cause breast cancer?” “Can nursing a child too long cause breast cancer?” And many, many more questions that may seem so nonsensical to us in the Western World, make so much sense when you live here. Education is not always about academia.
Day One was in Trewebo, a small farming community that I have visited many times. The women were many, over 105 with three or four men also attending. Their questions showed me their thirst for knowledge that could save their lives.
Day Two took us in the opposite side of the Amasaman region to Mayera; one of the oldest villages in the Ga history books. Some women walked 5 km very early in the morning just o hear our program. In this village the men were invited to join us and about 10 men listened from the outside. Within a hour the building was packed and people were lined up at each window listening.
Day Three we were at Akramaman. This is my village. I say my village for they made me Queen Mother, Naa Aku Shika, II, three years ago. I have been visiting several times a year and am known by site. I knew who would come and which men would also attend. Again, our crowd swelled to over 100. My heart raced as I watched their faces. Answers to each question asked were met with much discussion among the women. I am aware that women rarely discuss personal hygiene with one another. Certainly few will admit to a fear or problem involving their breasts. Many women realized for the first time that they are not alone in their fears or misconceptions. As we left, I knew we had changed many lives and I was thankful. We had one village left and I doubted that I could feel as excited as I did leaving Akramaman.
I certainly was not prepared for Day Four and Medie. I could sense the difference as soon as we drove into the town. It was bustling. I soon learned that it was the central market for many farmers to sell their wares to Accra. Today was corn day. Ears of corn seemed to flow from every nook and cranny. People were grabbing and bagging corn to sell in the big city. It took us several minutes to wade through the crowd and find our way to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church where we would be meeting.
The district Assembly Man met us and told us he would call the people and they would come. And he was right. They came and they came and they came. By mid morning we had over 140 people, mostly women, mostly Muslim. Up to now we had been teaching in the Ga language with some English. Now we had two new language, Twi and Akan. Since we did not have interpreters, we ask the women to group themselves according to language and help one another with translation. From the amount of questions that were continually asked, I am certain that most women hear answers in their own language.
About half way through the program it hit me. Tears began to fall gently down my cheeks as I heard the women asking their questions. This was a momentus occassion for many of these women. They could ask questions freely. They would get answers that they could believe and know are true. Everyone asked questions, women and men. I could hardly regain my composure. Truely this program had gone beyond all expectations.
Medie was our last program in this series of Health programs. We are thankful to Hon. Thomas Okine of Akramaman and Hon. Abodulai Agoro for their organization of the programs. Many thanks to our donors and St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Annapolis, Maryland, for their support. Donations to help us fund future programs may be made at http://www.gmhope.org.
We said good-bye to Charity, our Ghanaian Public Health Nurse, with tears in our eyes. She truly cares about the people and did an excellent job of spreading the word.
Tomorrow we will attend the first full graduation of St. Paul’s Preschool, Akramaman. I hope you will view us again tomorrow.