After surviving breast cancer, Pamela Okyere has made her physical and mental health top priorities in her life. After a lifetime of taking care of others, it was time she took care of herself.
Pamela Okyere was a single mum to two young boys working as a teaching assistant, when one day while playing with her son, she noticed a lump on her breast. Pamela says she didn’t think much. It wasn’t until a co-worker advised her to get it checked that she went to the GP.
The doctor told her it was probably nothing to worry about, but they would still refer her to a specialist hospital for cancer. Even the news of being referred to a specialist hospital didn’t shake Pamela. A week later, she found herself sitting in a consultation room being told that the lump in her breast was grade 3 breast cancer.
“The first thing that came to my mind was my kids, I thought I was going to die,” she says. “That day was an overload of information. I don’t think I retained any of it.”
She was scheduled for an emergency surgery to remove the tumour. Following this surgery Pamela had 12 rounds of chemotherapy and 21 sessions of radiotherapy. When she went back for what she thought was a regular check-up, Pamela was told that she still showing cancerous cells and would need a second surgery.
Pamela notes that one of the side effects of the chemotherapy was that she now suffers from neuropathy which leaves her with no sensation in her fingertips. “It was very hard, I couldn’t do things like open cans or chop with a knife,” she says. “But I’m still a mum and knowing that I needed to look after my boys is what kept me going.”
Pamela says that she has learned a few things while on this journey, some things she’s learned the hard way. “I’ve had to learn how to set boundaries with people in my life by prioritising myself, that it’s okay to say no sometimes, and how to ask for help.”
She’s also learned how important it is to take care of your mental health. She credits regular visits to the gym and support groups for helping her improve and maintain her mental wellbeing. “Going through this journey it was hard to relate to people, I was always looking for something like Black Women Rising,” she also adds “In Black Women Rising I found a group of women who look like me and who are going through the same thing. It was a lifesaver and made me feel like I wasn’t alone.”