When we think about the health problems people in poverty experience, we often think of illnesses like malaria, typhoid and waterborne diseases. Illnesses that for the most part we don’t get in the developed world. We generally don’t think of illnesses like breast cancer.
Pink Ribbon Day is about women all over the world who face the very real risk of breast cancer. With early detection and the appropriate treatment, breast cancer can be highly treatable, in developed and developing communities alike.
Rayim proudly hangs a pink ribbon in her home, a symbol of all she has overcome.
In Rayim’s home town in Dagouma, located in the central province of Burkina Faso, she had seen two women die from breast cancer. Rayim watched as the entire community was unable to intervene.
In Burkina Faso, breast cancer is a disease that kills slowly but surely, a disease that no traditional healer in the area can cure. According to WHO, cancer is the third leading cause of death after infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases in Burkina Faso and is a real public health problem.
Rayim never suspected that cancer would visit her too one day. So many years had passed since tragedy struck her village. She was no longer a little girl watching these terrible things happen to women in her village. Rayim was married to Alidou and they had two beautiful children. She was registered with Compassion’s Child Survival Program and the local staff were helping her provide for her baby. Despite their struggle for food and many other necessities, she had a wonderful and peaceful family life.
After the rain, the storm
The sky started to clear and the final drops of rain settled on the millet and sorghum crops as they grew ever closer to harvest. Rayim was outside in the barn, making room to accommodate the new grain, when she swatted an insect that landed on her chest and felt something. It was a small lump—about the size of a button—and she thought nothing of it for a couple of weeks.
“Over the weeks that followed, the button hardened and grew to alarming proportions,” says Rayim. “I began to worry and I talked to my husband who assured me it would go away without treatment.”
The button soon turned into a small wound and she was no longer able to properly breastfeed her baby. The pain intensified. Although her husband agreed she should see a doctor, she was unable to seek help. Her father-in-law, who managed their family affairs, did not want her to go to the hospital.
“He refused to allow me to go to the hospital because, according to him, hospital workers would steal our money and not to treat me in the end. He insisted that I not talk to Mariam, the Child Survival Program implementer, because he knew [she] would [take me] to the hospital.”
So that the staff from the Child Survival Program would not notice, Rayim dressed to cover the wound and avoid detection. It wasn’t until a surprise home visit that Child Survival Program implementer Mariam realised Rayim’s wound was not normal. Mariam took Rayim to the closest medical centre where she was diagnosed with breast cancer and periodically received treatment.
Today, Rayim is radiant with health and life thanks to the lifesaving treatment she received; she is able to take care of her family and raise her beautiful children without the fear she had before.
Mothers in the Child Survival Program attend monthly group sessions where they talk about topics that affect their families, their babies and themselves. Rayim uses her story at these seminars to teach the mothers about breast cancer and its symptoms to ensure her friends have the best chance possible to treat this disease should they fall sick.
To help support mother’s like Rayim and give them access to often lifesaving medical treatment, why not support Compassion’s Child Survival Program today?
Words by Serge Ismaël Ouédraogo and Monique Wallace