Mon | Nov 30, 2020

Mom, daughter fight cancer together

Published:Thursday | September 17, 2020 | 12:18 AMJonielle Daley/Gleaner Writer
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Jamaican women.
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Jamaican women.

Jamaica-born Andrea Ajibade was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer one month before the completion of her daughter’s chemotherapy treatment.

In July 2018, she underwent a routine mammogram at a healthcare facility in Cape Town, South Africa, before returning home to her family in Nigeria, when doctors discovered stage one cancer in her left breast and stage two in the right.

“I was absolutely devastated. ... Everything was waiting for me, my husband and the other three kids,” said the 54-year-old.

“... The first couple of weeks was horrible because I had to hide it from my children.”

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among Jamaican women, a fact that may have rested on Andrea’s mind days after its discovery.

Her daughter, Montunrayo, was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017.

Montunrayo’s ordeal started as a mild headache and climaxed when she collapsed at school. Because her condition was critical, she had to undergo immediate surgery at a public hospital in Nigeria as the doctors warned that she would not have survived a move.

“I think that this girl is the one that gave me strength because she was confident that she was going to be healed,” said Andrea in sheer admiration of her daughter’s strength.

The mother-daughter duo has been fighting cancer prayerfully. They have since moved to England.

Andrea underwent a double mastectomy and is in remission. As a strong Christian, she declares herself healed.

Montunrayo had a relapse in March 2020. The family faced down a bleak prognosis as the tumours spread. One doctor intervened - a decision that triggered a turnaround in her fortunes.

Montunrayo defied the odds and has since resumed classes while undergoing chemotherapy. The tumours have shrunk.

The 16-year-old told The Gleaner in a phone interview that her family’s support has helped her to hurdle every new challenge. And that has spurred her to offer advice to other parents to hang tough with their kids during cancer.

“You should not give up on the child. Provide the child with as much support and love as the child needs,” the teenager told The Gleaner.

Andrea expressed gratitude to her mother and other relatives for standing by her side while being grounded in prayer. She said the experience has taught them to put their complete trust in God.

“I think the support is in the doing. You don’t need to say much. Help out with the practical things because it’s a horrible journey, really,” she said.