LOUD WHISPERS: May Your Seat Not Be Empty

There is a time of the year when I become quite apprehensive and agitated. During this period, I play all kinds of scenarios in my mind, and I find it difficult to concentrate. It is the time of the year when I have to do my medical checks. As we grow older, the things to watch out for increase. Ever since a very close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer ten years ago, I have not missed my yearly Mammograms. My friend passed away four years after her diagnosis. Last year, I lost another good friend to pancreatic cancer.  It was all over so quickly, she passed away within six months of the diagnosis. The more friends and peers I lose to cancer and heart attacks (the list keeps growing each year) the more I panic. You can’t help but ask, ‘What is the point in planning anything if we don’t have control over what happens to us?’. Yet we must plan and live our lives.

In 2013 I received a very interesting 50th birthday present. A close Doctor friend of my husband and I, who is based in the US (he is more of a brother than a friend), gave me a gift of a Colonoscopy. He told me that anyone over fifty needs to have their colon screened. I had no idea what having a Colonoscopy entailed, but I am always open to new experiences. I was given a solution to drink eighteen hours before which is meant to cleanse your digestive system and prepare you for the procedure. Let us just say that during this period, you will have a close relationship with your washroom. My procedure was done by a Digestive Diseases Specialist who is a Nigerian. When it was all over and I had recovered somewhat from the effects of the anesthesia I had been given, I was told that when they examined my colon, they had found polyps. These are small, usually benign growths that can be easily removed during the procedure, so my Doctor took them out and sent them for further examination. The results confirmed that the polyps were indeed benign, but I was advised to come back for another screening in five years time instead of the standard ten-year gap. I was advised to stick to a high fibre diet. My five-year appointment was supposed to have been last year, but each time I was in the US, I either did not have enough time or the Specialist who had attended to me five years ago was not available. I however insisted that I would have it done this January before the year got too busy. And so, for a week before I left, I was quite nervous and agitated. It did not help that I had also scheduled a Mammogram for the same week, so it meant I would be waiting to receive results of two medical exams. I had already done bloodwork and relevant tests to determine that vital organs such as my liver, kidney and heart were functioning well. I am a model patient who does not argue with instructions given by medical personnel and I take any prescribed medication religiously.

I did the Mammogram first at the same Women Wellness Clinic I have used for ten years now. They have all my medical records and I am usually able to get an appointment at short notice, thanks to my Doctor friend/brother. As I slipped my hospital robe back on and was told they would send me the results in a few days, I felt relieved. I had been reliably informed that if they detect any abnormalities during the screening, they will not let you walk out before doing further checks such as a sonogram and even a biopsy. However, when I got an email from them the next day asking me to call them to discuss my results, I almost collapsed from fear. My heart was pounding and as I held the phone in my hands, I realized they were trembling a bit. I made the call, and the lady on the other end said, ‘I wanted to let you know that your mammogram is all clear. How did you find our service?’. I politely thanked her and told her that their service had been great. I struggled to hold back my tears of relief. Then it was time to prepare for my second colonoscopy. In addition to drinking the ‘concoction’ that that helps cleanse the colon, you are not allowed to eat solid food twelve hours before. I arrived at the clinic weak and tired from all the toilet visits, but the procedure had to be postponed for four hours because the anaesthetist had an emergency operation. Eventually it was done, and when I woke up, I was told that my colon was all clear and no polyps had been found this time. If I had not taken advantage of my birthday gift in 2013 and had not done my screening then, the benign polyps would have probably become cancerous by now. Making ourselves available for screening means early detection. Early detection means we might have a chance of survival. Of course, there are no guarantees, yet we can increase our chances of survival if we stop being cavalier about our health. I am fully aware that the vast majority of Nigerians do not have access to screening for a whole range of diseases and even when they do, their treatment options are limited. Any responsible government at State or Federal level needs to make access to qualitative healthcare a priority, especially to those in poor communities. This morning, I held a new born baby in my arms. His mother was rushed to the antenatal clinic at a free Health Mission in Ekiti State. She was in labour and it turned out she had complications and required a caesarean section, in a place that was not set up for such an operation. If the medical mission team had not been around the life of the mother and her child would have been at risk. Taking healthcare to the people should be at the center of any development programs our leaders decide to invest in. Diagnostic services are also critical, we continue to lose so many lives due to late, inaccurate or non-existent diagnosis.

There are also those who are not poor, but choose by accident or design to be negligent.  When I ask people who ought to know better, why they do not do their medical checks, they say they are afraid. I am afraid too. I don’t like doing them. I find Mammograms and Pap Smears invasive. I do them anyway. I want to live a long and healthy life. In Yoruba we say, ‘Eni eleni o ni gba ise e se’, which means ‘May no one take your place’, or ‘Aye e o ni si sile’, ‘May your seat not be empty’. No one will take my place, and my seat will not be empty. On Thursday January 17th, the Independent Newspapers gave me an award as Gender Activist of the Year. I was very pleased to receive the award, but I could not be there in person because I did not want to miss my medical appointments. I am very grateful to the Independent Newspapers for the recognition and honour. I flew back in to Nigeria on Friday 18th and drove straight to Ibadan from Lagos. I had been worried about being detained by any of my Doctors for further enquiry or treatment.  There was a huge political rally for APC Women and Youth from the South West in Ibadan on Saturday January 19th. My absence would have been very difficult to explain.  All the Wives of Governors from the region had mobilised hundreds of women from their respective States. When I appeared, all the over 600 delegates from Ekiti State erupted in cheers. As I waved back at them, I said a silent prayer of thanks to God Almighty. Thank you, Lord, for not making my seat empty. May your seat not be empty. May no one take your place. Have a great week.


Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She is currently the 1st Lady of Ekiti State. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com





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17 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: May Your Seat Not Be Empty

  1. Owolabi Kehinde January 24, 2019 at 10:53 am

    Woah. Your seat will never be empty IJN Amen. Was really happy to hear you speak at the rally. Btw, i love the dress you wore for the rally ma.

  2. Matilda January 24, 2019 at 1:02 pm

    Words of wisdom and lessons as usual. Our seats shall not be empty and congratulations on the award once again. Above Whispers Media team took over social media announcing it. I was elated that you got the award because indeed you are real fighter, a woman who’s taught me a lot of things on this platform. I promise to take my medications seriously now.

  3. Aderanti esther January 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    I took my mum to do her mammogram last year and even though she was nervous, i was also nervous for her. It’s not easy to expect doctor’s report. it is like report card that you are nervous to have. I am happy you are teaching us to take our health seriously and do what the doctor says. Thank you and congratulations on the award o. God bless you and keep all of us.

  4. DSEED January 24, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    One of the best helpful health tips. Your seat will not be empty ma. You are such a blessing. Likewise mine, in Jesus name.

  5. Linda Martins January 24, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    Thank you for talking to us about taking our health seriously especially as women. God bless you ma.

  6. Veronica Imaseun January 24, 2019 at 6:24 pm

    Mama! woman crush everyday! mentor forever and forever. Our seats shall not be empty by his grace o and we must work towards it. Congrats on your award ma and this team is doing a good job. I am loving this place more and more.

  7. Olakunle Olajide January 24, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    Amen..Your seat will not be empty and no one will take your place.. You are just an all round woman. This is my first time learning the word Colonoscopy. Thank you for this enlightenment and I am so glad you came back with positive results. The world hasn’t had enough of you yet.

  8. Femi Diipo January 25, 2019 at 11:20 am

    Thank God for your life and good health ma’am. It is always very important to take our health matters seriously and I’ve leant a great lesson from this. Your seat will never be empty ma’am.

  9. Dom Dom January 25, 2019 at 11:23 am

    There are still alot that need to be done in this country about human Healthcare and I thank God everyday that we have you in Èkìtì, making life better for our people everyday. I pray you continue to be in good health ma’am, we really still do need you

  10. Omoboriowo O.B.O January 25, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    Thank you for this timeless piece ma. God bless you.

  11. Theresa Nelson January 25, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    I really intend to take my health seriously this year. I have read through the various health articles on this platform and my eyes have been opened and this one is another assurance that i need to be serious with my health. I am also proud of the good things you have been doing in Ekiti state with the Governor. You people are doing well. You are an inspiration ma and this platform, Above Whispers is a place of succor and field of learning.

  12. Rita Oghene January 25, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    May our seats not be empty. In fact, I have never heard of Colonoscopy before o. This is my first time, I will advise my older friends to do theirs. Thank you for being down to earth with us, for teaching us, for pushing us to do more. Ma, congratulations on your award. We saw it on the platform and we are proud of you.

  13. Olori Adeoye January 25, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    God bless you for sharing this with us. I am also set for my mammogram and i have been nervous ever since. But what the heck! you did it, i can do it too and i pray for good results.

  14. Nnamdi Chuks January 25, 2019 at 5:52 pm

    Thank you for exposing this to us. I am glad you talked about this and congrats on the award.

  15. Victor Udoh January 26, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    Your space can never be empty. You are a very meticulous woman and it’s not strange that you take your health seriously. This is a clarion call even to us men to be particular about our health. A lot of men don’t take their health seriously thereby making their wives untimely widows. May God help us and congrats on the award ma.

  16. Bisi Alawode January 26, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    Thank you so much for this. God bless you ma.

  17. Eric Onuoha January 30, 2019 at 9:32 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. It is very important that we pay close attention to our health. Many people die from high blood pressure sometimes due to negligence.
    It is also important that we be mindful of what we eat because some of the things we eat can kill a person slowly.
    Congratulations on your award


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