My name is Olinka Rubadiri, born and raised in Uganda, East Africa. My journey with cancer began in 2007 when I was 37 years old. The diagnosis was stage four breast cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes. As one can imagine, it was an extremely difficult pill to swallow, and at that time I wasn't educated enough about the disease as it wasn't one that my family been inflicted with in the past. The stigma out in the world about having cancer meant that you were being assigned a death sentence and there was nothing you can do about it. I will not deny that it was very scary, and I just didn't know how I would break the news to my family who lived so far away from me in Africa.
I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a wonderful oncologist who explained my diagnosis in detail, the pros and cons and the life-changing decisions I would be making. In a nut shell I have an aggressive type of breast cancer, and he decided to get me on chemotherapy immediately for six months (six cycles), after which, in early 2008, I had a lumpectomy. I was declared to be in remission a month after my surgery.
During the course of that journey I vowed to myself that I was going to fight to the end no matter what. I learned that in order to help your body heal, along with the medication, nutrition and exercise, you also have to feed your mind and soul with positive thoughts and attitude. I succeeded and I was cured.
In 2010 while undergoing preliminary tests I began to feel discomfort in the same breast. I had to go in for further testing. I was advised I had relapsed in the same breast, and boy oh boy, was that just another kick in the stomach. Not only had I relapsed in the breast, the illness had metastasized to my liver. I went back my oncologist and was put back on chemotherapy for about eight cycles followed by liver ablation to remove the lesions on my liver. I also decided to get a double mastectomy, which took me a long time to recover from. By the end of 2013 I again had beaten the illness and was strong enough to take a break and go visit my family back in Africa.
When I returned from my trip in early 2014 I was undergoing more tests, and they found some tumors in my lungs. Here I was again on that battlefield. I started chemotherapy immediately. They gave me six cycles of the drug, and I responded very well to the treatment. My doctor advised that since I had relapsed three times, it would be best to continue my treatment indefinitely to avoid further relapses, which would not be pretty. To this day I continue on chemotherapy once every three weeks.
As I live with this illness I decided to take all the knowledge and wisdom that has been given to me and share it with my Ugandan community. I started my own non-profit organization called Pink Affaire Crusade with a mission of educating the youth about breast health. I travel to Uganda every October and speak to children in boarding school and provide them education materials detailing how to perform self-examinations, the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and provide them tools help them share with their families about the importance of family health history. I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to be part of changing the world by supporting others.