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Apologies My Dear Melanin Umbrella.

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By Belema Omuso Abbey.
I need to say I am sorry dear melanin. Can you ever forgive me? Can I ever undo this wrong? Is there a way I can make this better? How come I was never told I despised you with my actions. I was unknowingly telling you to get lost, literally!!! How come my brain never actually registered the counselling and all the caution I heard? Repeatedly heard.
A deep groan escaped Fabby’s lips as she clutched at her head, sobbing quietly. Then, she pressed send, delivering her message. She got up from the toilet seat and stood in front of the bathroom mirror. She looked at her once “glowing, very fair” skin, scattered in patches of red, black and yellow discoloration. Her skin was shriveled, she could see very tiny and large blue-green veins literally making a map all over her skin. It is a map indeed.
Her doctor says it shows the way the superficial blood vessels course through her body. Her left arm had a long scar, a lasting memory of the surgery she had 4 weeks earlier. The wound took 4 weeks to heal. Dr Regina said it was because her skin has lost all its protective, healing and regenerative functions. Fabby listened as her husband opened the door for the team comprising of doctors and nurses. Her husband called out to her, she is needed he said.
You see, she begins chemotherapy today for melanoma, a skin cancer. That was the outcome of the surgery on her left arm. Melanin stood rigidly against Dr Tan’s consulting room walls. Fabby’s message overwhelmed him as her words echoed all around him. He remembered reading Dr Regina’s notes a few months ago. “Mrs Fabby Dema, a 38 year old female, manager at a bank, who presented with an ulcer on the left arm. She was said to have previously developed an itchy black spot (before the ulcer started) that bled occasionally. She had been using over the counter whitening creams and soaps for 10 years, including a whitening cream following which she would pluck and pull out her skin after a few hours, revealing supposedly new skin. She is married, has just gotten to the peak of her career, her 3 kids are in secondary school. She does not smoke nor take alcohol.”
An angry loud thump drew melanin’s attention back to Dr Tan’s consulting room. It was the angry female patient. She is quite furious because Dr Tan is insisting that she has developed an addiction to steroid creams as she refused to stop applying them 5 months ago. He had prescribed it for an acute flare of her eczema but was surprised to see her much lighter in complexion during the clinic visit. She explained that the steroid cream made her skin fairer and more beautiful. She stomped out of the consulting room as the young dermatologist refused to prescribe some more for her. Melanin pitied Dr Tan. He had particularly had a bad day at the dermatology clinic.
He reminisced about his previous patients. He wondered whether he was complicit in 45 year old Mrs Owuna’s addiction to hydroquinone. He had prepped her skin for a chemical peel with 2% hydroquinone after counselling her on the benefits of the controlled procedure. Following sessions of chemical peels with glycolic acid, he withdrew hydroquinone, placing her on sunscreen.
Despite pre procedure counselling, Mrs A has refused to go off hydroquinone. Today, she informed Dr Tan that her 23 year old daughter’s skin is doing very well with a hydroquinone cream. Dr Tan felt some warmth on his shoulders as Melanin wrapped his arm around him. “No” Melanin said, the patient chose to continue the use of hydroquinone, you did not. He thought of Ms A. Ms A’s ebony skinned friend had accompanied her to her follow up clinic visit today. She needed to consult Dr Tan for a cream that could get her fair. Her group of friends had all started using naturally mixed soap and cream that made their skin luminous. She was rightly worried about the contents of those products, so she came to consult Dr Tan for safer options.
Melanin then screamed through the doctor. “Do not be tempted madam”. Do you know what the different shades of “black” you see on different skin do for us? It protects us from the damaging effects of the ultraviolet rays of the sun. It actually forms an umbrella shield around our skin’s DNA preventing damage and leading to skin cancer. It helps us not to photo age as fast as the white race. Ever heard of the phrase “black don’t crack”?
Bleaching agents with toxic contents like mercury and hydroquinone can give you kidney failure, steroids can cause growth retardation in children and cause a disease called Cushing’s disease. In the long run, when compared to your peers, your skin will look older, is prone to rashes, prone to skin infections, looks more wrinkled, does not heal properly and looks transparent. “I am Melanin, I live in your skin, I protect you, please do not hurt me” the doctor heard himself plead loudly. Those words sliced through Fabby as she dropped the cup of cream. 

 

You see, she is now in remission, her skin cancer treatment had resulted in a very good prognosis. Fabby was about applying whitening/bleaching cream because she noticed her ankles and knuckles look really dark she needed to even up the complexion one more time. Just one more week of use she thought, then I am done with toning my skin forever. So she planned, until melanin replied her long forgotten message.

Belema Omuso Abbey is a consultant dermatologist and physician of the West African College of Physicians. She trained at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital and The University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Ituku-Ozalla, Enugu state. She is presently into private practise. She loves to dance, read and allow her imaginations run wild.
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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Philomina ONUWAJE

    November 24, 2018 at 11:38 am

    Wow, great write up by my beautiful chief

    • Avatar

      Ovundah

      November 24, 2018 at 8:41 pm

      Thank you so much for the feedback

  2. Avatar

    Bridget Webilor

    November 25, 2018 at 11:05 am

    Interesting piece.

    • Avatar

      Ovundah

      November 25, 2018 at 6:01 pm

      Thank you so much for the feedback

  3. Avatar

    Bridget Webilor

    November 25, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    Interesting read.

    • Avatar

      Ovundah

      November 25, 2018 at 6:01 pm

      Thank you so much for the feedback

  4. Avatar

    Nk

    November 25, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    Nice piece! This message has to be shared to educate many.

    • Avatar

      Ovundah

      November 25, 2018 at 6:01 pm

      Thank you so much for the feedback, please do share this message.

  5. Avatar

    Ezeobi Obinna

    November 27, 2018 at 5:54 am

    Quite a piece. Thanks to the writer and editor.

    • Avatar

      Ovundah

      November 28, 2018 at 1:55 am

      Thank you so much for your feedback sir…

  6. Avatar

    Kattey.Kay

    November 27, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    I pray we will hear word. The effects of toning (or whatever it is called these days) are serious oh.

    • Avatar

      Ovundah

      November 28, 2018 at 1:59 am

      Thank you so much for your feedback.

  7. Avatar

    Hilda

    November 29, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Beautiful piece. I enjoyed reading it. Hoping it will get to the right audience.

    • Avatar

      Ovundah

      December 1, 2018 at 3:11 am

      Thank you so much for the feedback.

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Hearts Without Thorns…

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Features

Is rape preventable?

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Rape is a violent crime, and a very sensitive subject, that creates all kinds of emotions when talked about. Recently I wanted to do a talk on rape and needed a lawyer’s input, I wanted the lawyer to be part of the discussion, but her response was in the negative. In her words “I may be too emotional because I have had three near-rape incidents.”

Rape is caused by the rapist/s, but how do we protect our boys, girls, and ourselves from rape? I asked this question on my Facebook account and got some responses, which I would love to share here and I would also wish you can respond as well, as we learn and play our part to have a rape free society.

Ichechi Wokeh Esq; ‘Give the girl child good martial arts training to afford her a fighting chance in case of any eventuality... Truth is: rape, like many other vices, cannot be totally wiped off the face of the earth. We just have to find ways to avoid being victims. We can’t just sit back and wait it out. They should also be taught not to be with the wrong people at the wrong places, about the possibility of being drugged, about opening up, etc. Rape is a capital offence. They should beat the shame, report, and save the next girl from that particular rapist. Rape suspects hardly meet their bail conditions given the nature of the crime. I just can’t comprehend it when I hear people shy away from reporting rape cases. It’s not the shaming, but the resources to follow up your complaint. If you try that one with a family having the resources, that suspect is dead meat. It’s just the money to pursue case. Na money matter. Who born rapist??? If you see their physical condition in court, you’ll even forgive them.’

Dr. Charles Okpani; ‘Ovundah Nyeche we have to start instituting Christian family upbringing again. The men who rape were raised in homes, bro it will continue. Christian school education with well thought out sex education for every age group. Churches need to start organizing parenting classes for couples to learn.’

Dr. Comfort Ogidi; ‘There is no easy way to protect our children, God’s protection is all. I have heard of people who have ‘followed all protocols’ to prevent situations that can lead to rape and still got raped. Rape can happen anywhere, not mainly males but also females, friends, family, fathers, robbers, strangers are all culprits. Homes, boyfriends houses, streets, alleyways, buses, clubs and now churches have all been implicated. So I cannot tell my child don’t dress indecently( so you don’t get raped. I might have other reasons to tell them so but not that. Also a place you think is secluded today might be the only passageway tomorrow, and a regular route today might be secluded tomorrow. So basically, I would only ask parents to teach their children consent, and also ask our government to make rape punishment stiffer, and the culture of victim blaming reduced. Finally, having weapons such as pepper spray and such might not be a bad idea. Although one prays our children never meet a situation where they would have to use it.‘ When quizzed further about a comment she made about dressing, she added ‘I will tell them this…dress the way you want to be addressed….In this part of the world (Nigeria) if you dress with too much skin exposed, you would be seen as fickle, someone who has nothing much to bring to the conversation and that’s why you are calling attention to your body unnecessarily. In fact, to simpletons you are a slut. So dress the way you want to be seen as. Dress smart, dress to the occasion, dress to the place. Be smart, be emotionally intelligent. I don’t use the word ‘indecent dressing’ at all, as decency of dressing is relative to the place.What is seen as a decent dressing in Port Harcourt is indecent in Borno, and what is seen as decent in Essex is indecent in Lagos.

Emmanuel Nwakanma a Sociologist; ‘Dr. There may be no direct way of stopping or protecting people from rape, however putting some things in place can discourage it to a large extent. For instance:1. Perfecting forensic investigation. When people know that if they commit a crime, no matter how perfect, the justice system will always catch them, less crimes will be committed.2. Improve on our security system. We don’t really take security serious in Nigeria. No CCTVs on our streets alleys. Even on main roads, you can drive for hours and you won’t see one security personnel on the road. 3. Ensure perpetrators are dealt with in order to discourage others from such behaviour. 4. Teaching boys and girls self defence. 5. Improving on rapid response to SOS. Do we have a ‘911’? What’s the response rate? 6. Street lights, regular electricity. 7. Regularly educating boys and girls on risk factors, triggers and dynamics of rape. They look like irrelevant things but they can go a long way.

Dr. Boma Nyananyo; ‘Tell the boys… rape is wrong… teach them how to take no for an answer…Also protect the boys, many have been molested by women when they were younger.If all fails,don’t cover up.. don’t blame a girl who was raped… it hurts.’

Pst. Judah Olorunmaiye; ‘My thoughts are very scattered, please pardon me. I’ll also like to emphasize a few other things that may not have been echoed previously. Sir, Sex has been redefined by modern society. The first step is to be loud on the sacredness of sex. When we speak of Chastity, people believe it’s just another sexual orientation of someone who is low on libido, but as long as sex is just a body gift that can be received casually or stolen(Rape) we cannot even deal with the fundamental issues.It’s honestly difficult to give counsel on protecting yourself from rape because I’ve never been close to such situations, but I believe I can give general suggestions that may help us. Let’s start with the value of every human. While this may seem like an inconsequential point, it determines a lot in terms of how others are treated. Sexual, emotional and physical abuse, ranging from police brutality to domestic violence is founded on the premise of a lack of value for another human being’s emotions and feelings. There has been a systematic erasing of our conscience on the last decade, so much so that the hurts and pains of others doesn’t seem to bother us again. Our minds are constantly being trained to see pain and brutality as the norm among humans, we watch it in our favorite movies and hear of constant blood shed from activities of terrorism and kidnappers, and so slowly and surely we’ve added the trauma, pain and cruelty of rape as part of human society that can be endured and tolerated. There are already numerous counsels written here about how toxic the media can be to the young generation but let me buttress that point again. Our generation has been sexually pumped up. This is primarily because the average celebrity is a loose cannon who engages in all kind of pervert pleasure and gives an impression that this is how to live successfully. From Politicians buying sex toys to Religious leaders accused severally of sexual misconduct, we have deceived the next generation, that sexual pleasure inevitably comes with being at the Top.While we can acknowledge that some of these people have succeeded know their personal endeavors, we must refuse the temptation to paint them as heroes just because they are rich and famous.We are quick to label them as role models irrespective of their pervert views on sacred subjects and so our children may imitate their drive and tenacity towards success but they will also imbibe their values and reflect their principles.I also believe we have given too much respect to “Elders and Erring Leaders”The average rape case often involves a young lady and an older man, This older man believes his sins will be pardoned because he has grey hairs. No one will report him because they will respect his age and respect the tradition that protects an erring leader. I am a firm believer in honouring the aged, but it’s more priority to punish evil than to respect age and tradition. If the western world are more decisive with dealing with rape crimes, this is where they differ from Africa.The Pastor must know that he won’t be spared if his church finds out his evil, the political leaders must know they won’t be re elected if their constituency is told of their sex crimes. Finally, let’s scrap to a large degree the facilitators of a massive loss of self control. Our society preached about condoms and abortion pills in the name of safe sex but sold a message captioned.. “We must have sex, we can’t control our bodies, but just make it safe”, We should be preaching self control and not safe sex. Alcohol abstinence is now being mocked as being religious, meanwhile the consumption of that substance makes people lose their senses and think ugly thoughts.Everything that encourages the weakening of self control should be deemphasized no matter how logical they sound. If we can control our hormones and preach to others that it is not hard at all, we can save the next generation from the beast of sexual misconduct.’

Pst. Austine Oviawe; ‘We live in a very sexualized society, whose constant exposure homosexual innuendos and overtures is unparalleled. Sex is glamourized on every hand, entertainment, social media, arts, sports and even religion has become sexualized. Feminists have ignored the sexual gravity of men towards the woman’s nakedness, and defend every woman right to dress half naked, one has seen all sorts as women now dress sexy, not to cover nakedness. A naked woman does something to any sexually active male. Every man will respond sexually to a naked woman!As society is plunging into a sexual abyss, there is little or no knowledge to the young teens on handling and dealing with the sexual pressure that barrages them daily. Society through the internet is breeding all sorts of sexual perverts. The musical videos on even government television channels are for the most part x-rated. Little children as young as 2 years old can twerk and dance seductively like crazed adult whores. Sadly, most parent work, thus leaving an entire generation to school systems, the street, and TV programs after school, and these children are seeded with perverse sights and sounds.Kids have been caught kissing passionately in school toilets, and anywhere they have privacy, even our kids church are not spared, we spend more time monitoring interactions between kids who seem to have only had a week of innocence as babies. I don’t allow my kids attend other kids birthday parties anymore, what goes on in kids birthday party is worrisome. We need to declare an emergency in our schools, churches, homes, and society at large to tackle the sex lies, pressure, and perversion that seeks to overthrow an entire generation of young people. The need is for healthy and holistic sex education for teens and pre-teens, legislation to protect our young from defiling entertainment and creating boundaries where these have become trampled, and training both sexes how to possess their vessels in honour and sanctification. We must become proactive, and not reactive only when young girls are violated. We must do better that trend hashtags and take responsibility to raise youths who are sexually informed, and responsible. Parents must do their jobs and not delegate the responsibility of raising their kids to schools and churches. The entertainment outlets available to the kids must be properly vetted and controlled. It high time we have books for 3 and 4 year old on sexual exploitation and how to prevent and resist such. Exposing abuse at such early age of innocence by encouraging them to speak up and expose any one and everyone that violates their body. Parents must pay attention to kids mood and limit who and what their kids is exposed to, including kids their age too.

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Living with Adenomyosis, my story.

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By Anwuri Grend.

Some days ago I got to read about the Nollywood actress that had hysterectomy for Adenomyosis.

To say I was shocked is an understatement, as a medical doctor, especially an African that would have loved to have that hope of having her own child, I wouldn’t have advised her to take that mode of treatment.

More so as someone living with Adenomyosis, I would not have advised her to tread that path!

But then again, our pain thresholds are all different and Adenomyosis symptoms may differ in individuals, perhaps she was bleeding non stop and then her menstrual cramps and pain unbearable.

I also don’t know if she discussed her case with any other doctor for a second opinion, perhaps she would have been told there are several other people living with the condition.

The only problem though is that we Nigerians are still so secretive about these things, maybe because many times we feel “someone” is responsible for it! If there were groups like those living with endometriosis (which is a sister to Adenomyosis, just that instead of the uterine lining being in the uterine muscle like Adenomyosis, it’s outside eg in the ovary), perhaps hearing stories of how others are coping would have given a solid support system.

Before I was diagnosed of Adenomyosis all I knew about my periods were that I had “chunks of meat” as my regular flow, and if I start my menstrual flow on a Tuesday, the next time I won’t need any pad would be the next Tuesday. I seriously didn’t think of it as heavy flow and I always said I didn’t have pains.

So after marriage when I waited to conceive and didn’t, I went for a scan (yes, I never had one prior to marriage, there was no need). The Transvaginal scan showed the Adenomyosis and in addition, there was endometrial polyps and endometrial hyperplasia. I had a procedure (hysteroscopy) to remove the polyps and hyperplasia and then decided to keep trying to conceive with the Adenomyosis. And yes for me it worked, but what it did to me was multiple miscarriages.

A colleague once told me I was lucky, the typical presentation is pure infertility, mine allowed me take in but caused several miscarriages.

I didn’t have to move a muscle to miscarry, it was usually so bad that anytime I was pregnant and see the tiniest of blood, there’s absolutely nothing that can be done about …. Because the uterus(womb) will keep contracting until the baby was out.

I could miscarry at anytime, was commonly first trimester (5, 6 & 7 weeks) but I had one at 21 weeks(5months). One particular miscarriage I bled for 14 days non stop, clots etc! (PS: it was actually not smart of me, should have done a Manual Vacuum Aspiration but I decided to take advantage of the powerful contractions to evacuate my uterus).

After the 21weeks miscarriage(I had an MVA because I was on admission when it occurred), I decided I was going to get prophylactic cervical cerclage whenever I crossed the first trimester and thankfully (to God be the glory), it worked.

So prior to second trimester there was nothing that worked ie, bed rest oh, not moving a muscle oh, inserting cyclogest( as a matter of fact the pregnancies that stayed, I didn’t need to insert cyclogest!). So yes, I would say it was a miracle.

So when I hear things like I had to take my uterus out because the doctors told me there was no chance of me having a baby with Adenomyosis and endometriosis I get really upset.

These things are all probabilities so going ahead to have hysterectomy is making it final.

But again, I reemphasize that maybe her symptoms were simply unbearable and hence when advised for that mode of management, she opted for it.

There are times when I have felt “why me” but I quickly removed such backward thought from my head. I mean, all these things I was diagnosed of had names, meaning I wasn’t the first person to have them so what makes me so special that I shouldn’t be the one having it? And as a Christian I believed (and still do) that if God allowed me to have it, it’s because He has already made a way of escape for me, so I am more than capable of handling it. And yes He helped me.

Do I still have Adenomyosis today, yes! Do I still feel my womb when I palpate my abdomen, yes, even when I am not pregnant! I still have no plans of taking out my uterus now ‘jor’, when menopause comes it should sort itself out.

I however am tired of having miscarriages, so I will soon hang my boots…you don’t understand? Haaaa, my obstetric career will soon come to an end! I have tried. Or let me put it like apostle Paul(once I am done), I have finished the race, I have fought the good fight, waiting for me is a crown of Glory…

This piece is meant to be an encouragement for those coming after me. There’s nothing special about me, God can do it for you too if only you believe. If you are living with Adenomyosis, you are not alone. Cheer up, it’s not your village people(lol)!!!

Present at a good hospital and first get diagnosis made and ask for available options.

Nothing is bad if you want to do hysterectomy and subsequently adopt, yes it’s also an option.

I wish you all the best in this journey, I bow out honourably,lol.

P.S.: I now have two children and can’t be grateful to God enough.

Dr Anwuri Grend is a Family physician whose passion is creating and increasing health awareness for common conditions especially those affecting women.

She’s a Christian, married with two children and an advocate for the empowerment of the girl child and improvement of opportunities for women in all spheres of life.

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