Let your faith be bigger than your fear

When Baby Millicent was born, her mother was overjoyed at the gift of a baby girl. The nurses congratulated her on her beautiful baby and there was great joy amongst her family members. Mama Millicent was excited. Sometimes when there were no visitors in the room, she would watch her baby sleeping and dream about her growing into a lovely young woman, someone she would bring up in the ways her own mother taught her, who would help with the cooking and cleaning at home, and who would accompany her to the market, stopping by one of the kiosks for a glass of sugarcane juice, enjoying special mother-daughter moments.

Mama Millicent spent the first day resting and watching her baby as she slept in the cot next to her. When she woke up on the second day, she couldn’t wait to hold her baby and dress her in the cute little outfit she had come with to the hospital. She gave Millicent a warm bath in the basin of water brought by the nurse, and then began to rub baby lotion on her perfect little body. But wait, what was this she was seeing on the baby’s chest? It looked like a swelling. It seemed to be only on one side. She pressed the tender looking area and noticed something oozing out slowly. How strange, she thought. What could this be? Baby Millicent did not seem to be in any pain but this was certainly something unexpected in a new-born child.

She called for the nurses who came to her bedside and showed them the strange swelling. They too did not seem to have ever seen anything like this and called for the resident doctor who took a look and said they would need a second opinion. He wouldn’t say what the second opinion was about. Towards evening, a new doctor, the resident doctor and the pediatrician who was in attendance when Millicent was born, walked to Mama Millicent’s hospital bed. They stood around Millicent’s cot, speaking in low tones, and then the new doctor turned to Mama Millicent and said quietly, “I’m so sorry but we need to carry out surgery on your baby immediately. She has cancer.” For a long minute, Mama Millicent stared at the doctor. She thought she had heard wrong. She asked, “What did you say?” Her heart had begun to pound. Hard! She was hoping she was mistaken… that she misunderstood the softly spoken words. But the doctor repeated what he had said, “Your baby needs urgent surgery. She has cancer – breast cancer”.

Suddenly, everything seemed to come to a standstill as Mama Millicent collapsed onto her pillow. The white walls seemed to close in on her and merged with the blue bedspread, forming a greyness before her eyes, as grey as the pain that suddenly sat heavily on her chest. She stared blankly at the doctors. How could a little baby, barely two days old, have cancer?! She doesn’t even have breasts! The doctors in turn looked worriedly back at her and then motioned for the nurse to draw closer to Mama Millicent. At the soft touch on her hand, Millicent turned to the nurse and asked her, “Will my baby die?”. The answer came from the pediatrician. “No, not if we do it immediately.”

At her nod, the room suddenly filled with commotion as more nurses walked into the room and began to prep her baby for surgery. They then took her away, heading toward the theatre. After they left and she could no longer see her little one, Mama Millicent broke down and began to cry and plead with the heavens to spare her baby. She had just stepped into the world and her first greeting would be a surgeons’ knife!

About an hour later, baby Millicent was brought back to her room, her little chest bandaged. The doctors explained that they had had to perform a mastectomy. How could that be done on her little baby who was just days old? That night, Mama Millicent barely slept. She lay on her side watching her little one breathe in and out, hoping that nothing would go wrong in the healing process.

They were discharged three days later and apart from needing to come back to the hospital for the wound to be cleaned and dressed, baby Millicent healed well. Years passed and she grew to be a capable young lady – everything her mother hoped for. Except for the scar on the right side of her chest, which was occasionally uncomfortable, her life has been as expected, filled with love and laughter.

Millicent came to see us as she had heard we have bras and prostheses available for those who have had a mastectomy. It was horrifying hearing what she had gone through as a baby. Worse still was the fact that, with further tests, it sounded like this could have been a terrible misdiagnosis. She has had biopsy after biopsy with the results always coming back negative. We will never know the truth as the sample has long since been destroyed. We were happy to provide Millicent with a post mastectomy bra and fitted her with a breast prosthesis, enabling her to feel more “normal”.

As we spoke with her, it became apparent that the pain she has been feeling, and taking regular paracetamol for, could be psychological. Whenever she meets anyone who knows her story, they refer to her as “poor Millicent who is suffering from cancer”. She acknowledged that indeed the pain could have been caused by the fact that she expects to be unwell, even though when she really thinks about it, she has been healthy all her life.

It is amazing how powerful the mind is. We have heard many stories of people who had been declared hopeless cases who have gone on to live healthy and full lives, way beyond their doctor-allotted time. Others, who were seemingly healthy one day, seemed to suddenly spiral downward as a result of despair, loss of hope and depression. Sadly, when not addressed, this can lead to the end of a precious life. This is one of the reasons Twakutukuza Trust exists, to communicate hope and love and life to those who may need it. As we do this, we continue to pray for healing of body, mind and spirit.


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