By Jet Stanley Madu
Learning how to adapt to difficult changing life situations is daunting. It is more tasking especially, for a young school girl who has to transmute from a life of wholesomeness to unwholesomeness.
This is the fate of Miss Chidera Enwere when life dealt a harsh blow on her and her education. Shortly before her junior secondary school (JSS1) promotion examinations in April 2012, she took ill and was diagnosed of cancer of the bone. She went through the treatment. Even though she survived, the ailment left her with a body short of one limb.
She has had to brace up to live as a person with disability from her previous status of a whole person. That year, her education suffered a major setback. For her, life has never been the same.
The Education Report encountered her at a recent childhood cancer awareness programme in Lagos. In a chat, she shared her experience and challenge of coping through the aid of clutches.
Chidera spoke on the initial challenges of learning to live with one leg, the embarrassing moment in school, the tragic death of her father, the regret of living with disability. Also, she spoke on supportive role which her mother as well as the scholarship offered by the Children Living With Cancer Foundation (CLWCF) offer her.
Narrating her predicament, the SS3 student of Hind’s Feet Academy, Ajegunle recalled that the incident occurred on a certain Sunday night in April 2012. The Sunday preceded the commencement of that session’s promotion examination. “So I didn’t sit for that exam. And it was when I was to be promoted to JSS2. At first, I was confined to bed for a whole year. And for that whole year, I did not attend school.
“I missed JSS2. By the time I recovered a bit, my mates were in JSS 3 and preparing to write their junior WAEC. I did not take the junior WAEC with them. I remained in JSS1. I ought to have completed my secondary education. But, I’m in SS3 now.”
Due to the ill-health, she lost one and half years. In the course of treating her of cancer, the only choice left to stop the spread of the cancer and saving her life was to cut off her right leg. After being bedridden for a year, she lost another year on chemotherapy. The burden of being on chemotherapy was gruesome and did not help matters.
She confessed losing concentration afterwards. I picked up again in JSS3, “because there I was no longer on chemotherapy and the pains had died off.”
“Initially, it made me feel terrible pain in my heart. But, as time went by, I tried to adjust to the situation I found myself. I told myself that even if I cried my heart out, it won’t change the fact that I now live with one leg.”
In JSS3, she began to adapt to situation and made new friends who were empathetic of her plight. Unlike her former friends who she jeered at her, the later were encouraging and even volunteered in turns to lend a hand in carry her school bag. “And I as a jovial and amiable person, we enjoyed one another’s company. When I am unmindful of my present condition, they would say, “see your leg o” jovially or in empathy. Then, I would say, leave it for me, I love it. And we all laugh it off”.
Aside contending with unfriendly friends, Chidera had her bulky school bag to grapple with on clutches. She confessed it was “quite difficult”. She further recalled that after her amputation, “my mother was there encouraging me. She urged me to keep on. Regularly, she assisted me carry my bag to school. But, I know she can’t carry on like that forever. So, I learnt to adapt. The books were many and my schoolmates would wonder how I cope with it on clutches.
Chidera commented on the attitude of her teachers towards her present state. While some were indifferent to her condition, other were sympathy. But, it was all for her good. “I thank God for the teachers in my school. They advise and try to make me understand that the deed is done.”
However, she said she is still challenged by the fact that the teacher sees her as the same “old Chidera,” Therefore, some flog her for lateness or failure to sweep the classroom. She recalled how her mom stormed the school charged for war in one of such instances. That was the first time a teacher lashed her after the amputation. “She actually came to school to enquire why anyone should flog me for failing to sweep or for coming late to school. So, my mom asked if she did not see my condition.”
But, she considers the teacher’s excuse as valid and the action as an incident that helped re-orientate her. The teacher she said, had insisted that executing all chores would help her feel normal like every other student, and not brooding over her disability. “She also said if I’m exempted being disciplined for general offence, I would continue to live with the feeling that all is not well with me. From then onwards, I join in sweeping the class and coming early to school. And this earned me the post of punctuality prefect.
The Education Report sought to find out how she could kneel on one leg. Her response: “I would hold unto my clutches and kneel. All of these make me feel like a normal child again. Well, at home, I still sweep, mop –I use my clutched as support and mop with one hand. I sit down to sweep. But, in school, I hold on to my clutches, hop on one leg and sweep. And I love it.”
Before the cruel fate, one of Chidera’s past-time was fetching water. When I hadn’t been amputated, I could trek to anywhere in company of my friends to fetch water, notwithstanding the distance. Even when it rained, we would fetch the water in the rain. But, since this incident, I am no longer able to fetch water. That’s the only thing I know I love doing which I can’t do anymore.
Having being certified free of cancer, one wish she has is to be able to move without the aid of clutches. To this end, she is expectant that a good spirited Nigeria or group would donate prosthesis to aid her function better.
“Apart from helping to rehabilitate me to use my two hands, it will help me cope well after my schooling, to get a job or start up something on my own. So, I won’t be a liability to myself, family and the nation. Secondly, my studies will become less challenging and less stressful because the fatigue of moving on clutches with heavy bag makes it tiresome for me to study.”
Chidera revealed how through God’s provident, a charity organization came to her aid to fund her treatment and education. Equally, she is hopeful that she is able to raise someone or a group to procure prosthesis for her. She speaks about the role the foundation played in saving her life.
“Dr. Nwobbi runs a charity organization known as Children Living With Cancer Foundation. I met her when I was in hospital at Igbobi. At that point, my mother was begging people for fund. From that period, she took over my treatment and care. Her foundation catered for the chemotherapy drugs. Afterwards, she placed me on scholarship. She has been the one paying my school fees right from JSS 2 till now that I am in SS3. God has used her to save my life”.
Please note: you may wish to reach Chidera on telephone number: 0816 727 7528; her mother on 0803 520 2166 or Dr. Nwobbi: 0803 315 6908.