Mikdad reviews dying many times; the struggles of a cancer patient


Thoughts of a Nima Boy:

Last week, I wrote on how reading can open the eyes of a person to many things happening around him or her. I touched on how reading opens the lens through which we focus on the world. And we discussed some women whose actions helped shape some of the ideals and ideas that shine light on some of us. It was a great and enlightening piece – at least from the feedback I got from some readers.

This week’s book  is a sad one. It is a sorrowful one for me. I came across a book that left me Outraged. Shocked is an understatement, and Afraid will not suffice. Afraid for myself or anyone I know who might find him or herself in similar situation. And in a country where we have no health system in the first place not to talk about making it effective or efficient, it rankles my soul. It is a sad book. There is an inherent tendency to be gloomy and depressed when one reads the book.

It is 267 pages filled with struggles. The struggle of a young man, the author Benjamin Akyena Brantuo, in his quest to fight cancer that had afflicted his young wife and made their once happy home one full of drugs and agony.  The title alone gives one an inkling of what to expect in the nicely-packaged book. Dying Many Times; the struggles of a cancer patient was written to as it were “complement the authoritative materials already provided by scientists and health professionals on cancer by adding an account from the perspective of a victim”, as stated by the blurb. The book also seeks to expound on the feelings of cancer patients, how it affects those closer to them, and how difficult or easy it is for them to respond to treatments and their possible complications.

Though filled with a sad story, the book is fit to be a guide for people treating and exposed to cancer patients – and  even policymakers. It is a difficult discussion we need to seriously start having, as there are over 100 unknown causes of cancer. It is reported that more than 11 million people are diagnosed with cancer each and every year. In Ghana there is difficulty in diagnosing, and also limited options available when one wants to treat cancer – that is, for those who have that financial muscle. It is a disease that has a high possibility of relapse. This is quite scary and worth discussing. Cancer and its related issues must be foremost in our acquisition of knowledge. This book comes in very handy in that regard.

The book ends with six personal commitments of the author to ensure a proper system for the treatment and prevention of cancers. He intends to be Cancer Ambassador, going round the world enlightening people on the horrors and danger of Cancer. The book also contains wonderful pieces of advice to cancer patients. One great and interesting part of the book is the well-enumerated steps in supporting cancer patients.

It is a must-have book that should be in every home, school; every nook and cranny of the country. It is an essential document in our lives, because it is a reminder of how we can be the next victims of cancer. This book also also speaks on how we all can aid in the building of solid health infrastructure that can support when the unfortunate happens.

After reading the book and calling our attention to it, Mikdad Mohammed gives us a sorrowful review. Mikdad is a young man who has worked with the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company (BOST) and the Institute for Energy Security where he was Research Analyst. Today, he is not discussing energy as he frequently does on TV. Today, he discusses cancer and its horrors in the pages of a wonderful book.

Mikdad’s review

This is the first time I have read Ghanaian non-fiction, closed the last page and found myself truly at a loss for words, getting angry with the writer for taking me through a tortuous tour of pain in his life, guiding me around the bloody, deep cuts our health system inflicted on his love with whom he started life’s journey on a note of hope and faith, but ended in a tragedy at Korle Bu Hospital on Thursday, April 2nd, 2020 at 11.06am.

I have never come out of a book where I felt the personal agony of the writer tug the sleeves of my heart, numbing me as I turned page after page, leaving me extremely infuriated with the system and heartbroken over and over again about the helplessness of the pain playing out before my eyes; and yet denying me the luxury to take consolation in the book being fiction.

Maybe that’s why it hurts – the fact that everything I read is real, accompanied by images that communicate the devastating effects of cancer – not only on the patient, Patience Akyena Brantuo, but her immediate family too.

Dying Many Times, the Struggle of a Cancer Patient is a book written by someone was once a firebrand student leader who at one time was Aide to the Chief of Staff, Office of the President, and at another time Aide to the Minister of Information; but by some extreme convolutions of fate finds himself at rock-bottom, having to beg for all kinds of support to keep the love of his life alive while caring for a young child without assistance.

For those of us who heard the legend of the writer Benjamin Akyena Brantuo as a student leader of the great Commonwealth Hall, it is not surprising how his book communicates detailed pain with literary finesse and grammatic simplicity.

In the west, some families who lose a member to cancer donate the bodies to enhance cancer research – in which case I believe the frank details of Akyena Brantuo’s account and the graphic presentation convincingly suffice as Mr. and late Mrs. Akyena Brantuo’s contribution to the understanding of cancer in our part of the world.

Although I set out to write just a two-sentence appraisal for the book, see how far I have come?

Now, despite provocative scenarios during his wife’s emergency treatment which show our hospital system is messed-up to a point where prayer is the only hope, I considered it profound that the writer kept his faith in his country…exemplifying Ghanaian patriotism where I would have been lost to Canada.

Overall, the book is an honest, open, compelling, emotional chronicle of a love affair that descended into a battle against cancer, a battle the writer believed was a sign through which God would have ‘proven’ Himself to the family for them to live happily ever after. But alas…

Benjamin Akyena Brantuo offers a unique perspective about life, death, family, prayer and our health care system.

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NB: The Writer is a Youth-Activist and the Executive Secretary of Success Book Club.

Mikdad Mohammed currently heads the Trade and Investment Desk of a Foreign Mission in Ghana.

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