Cancer continues to lay a global burden and according to the World Health Organization, is the most common cancer among women worldwide, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of women each year and affecting countries at all levels of modernization. This has made the need for awareness on early detection even more dire now than ever. The invasive disease which is practically incurable once spreading has occurred, can only really be prevented or snipped early with constant checks. This is why when a woman survives the disease, it is something worth celebrating.
We got together with Omolara Cookey, a breast cancer survivor who shared with us her journey. In collaboration with the portrait photography connoisseur himself, Anny Robert we were able to treat her to a makeover and photo shoot. Little did I know that more than the miracle was a profound story. On interviewing her, I had no idea what to expect, only that I needed to listen. The Incredibly articulate wife and mother, spoke of her journey with so much poise but she highlights that there was nothing gracious about facing death. Not only had breast cancer threatened her life, she had just survived a different life threat, Myasthenia Gravis, an autoimmune disease which leads to varying degrees of skeletal weakness. She had just undergone intense physiotherapy to be able to walk and regain full use of her muscles. Initially, she describes how her emotions took hold of her, ‘not again’ she said. She mentions weeping and feeling sorry for herself until she ditched self-pity for receiving God’s grace to fight.
I started constantly thinking about what I was thinking because it all starts with the mind. I held many trials with myself in my own head, if what I was thinking didn’t align with healing and wholeness, I was quick to dump it.
Mrs Cookey found a lump in one side of her breast which the doctor after conducting a mammogram had said had benign characteristics. She recalls receiving a prompting from the holy spirit to do a biopsy just to ensure that it was in fact benign. However, she was in a place of fear, she couldn’t understand how having just recovered mobility due to the auto-immune disease after a period of over 3 years, God would allow cancer to take hold of her, there was no way that would happen, she had repeatedly told herself.
I couldn’t believe that the God that I served would heal me from one life-threatening ailment and then give me another, but looking back now, that was training ground for what was to come.
Due to her denial, Omolara chose to ignore this prompting until 5 years later, she started to feel some pain so she carried out a biopsy, the lump was indeed malignant and she was found to have breast cancer. She flew to South Africa a few days later for a mastectomy. She winces as she remembers the ordeal which nearly cost her life, she mentions never to wait and carefully instructs that many times, mammograms are done improperly. She warns that women have an intuition and when they feel something is wrong, it is better to get a second opinion than wait till it’s too late. Cookey nicknamed by her friends, Omolara Miracle, recognizes how blessed she is because after a period of over 5 years, the cancer could have spread horribly. She recounts that her ovaries had been removed shortly before which mitigated the spread. God at play.
During her time in Johannesburg, as she readied for her surgery, she chose joy; Both pre-surgery and post-surgery, she repeatedly chose joy. She also began painting again after a 25 year-long hiatus, ‘painting was therapeutic’, she recounts.
I painted my nails red to signify the blood of Jesus, played with my sister’s kids, my brother in-law treated me to a spa day and I prophesied the word of God over my life. There was no room for anything else, I entered into the lord’s rest.
Omolara who notes that her healing journey was deeply instrumental in self awareness and discovering what things to take on board mentions how she spends her time dwelling on things of eternal value such as relationships and her relationship with God. She also now dedicates her time to painting a lot more, a hobby she had long let go of, it brought her so much joy during her ordeal that she decided to keep it on. She includes her paintings on scarves as in the photo above.
My experience deepened my resolve to foster my relationships and coming together more often with family and friends.
Her advice to anyone going through a cancer prognosis..
Fight with everything you’ve got, if you don’t have faith, get it.
Mrs Cookey is one warrior princess whose battles she wears on her neck. It has been over 5 years since she survived breast cancer so for every year that goes past, she purchases a statement necklace which she calls her victory necklace. It’s a reminder of what God brought her through.
Mrs Omolara Cookey is just the right dose of inspiration you’ll need for your week. She is the epitome of grace through struggle, a reminder that no matter what life throws at us, the God we serve is greater and able to lift us, shield us and guide us through it all. As God will have it, today marks the 6th year since she underwent surgery so it is officially her 6th year anniversary which she fought cancer and overcame! How profound.
We celebrate with Mrs Cookey today and we all wear our victory necklaces in support of many women like her who have fought the good fight to victory. We also remember those who were not as privileged to live and together, we stand in solidarity for all women worldwide who continue to fight cancer, our thoughts are with you.
This fantastic shoot was made possible with these brilliant minds at work:
Scarf designs: @nojiart
Flourish Africa is a women empowerment movement designed to help women all over the world achieve their fullest potential and become what God created them to be.