Renowned playwright and Nobel Laureate, Prof. Oluwole Soyinka, on Tuesday opened up on his health status, saying he was diagnosed of cancer last December.
But an expert and Founder of African Cancer Centre, Lagos, Prof. Olu Williams, quickly assured Soyinka that he would “not die of cancer.”
Williams, who revealed that Soyinka had the disease because of his old age, said the playwright will only “die with the ailment.”
Soyinka, who revealed his cancer status at a press conference at the June 12 Cultural Centre, Abeokuta, Ogun State, said he had decided to open up so as to create awareness about cancer disease and to help people take measures to prevent it or seek prompt medical attention for cure.
The Nobel Laureate said he survived the silent killer disease because of early detection, treatment and proper dieting, adding that it has also dawned on him that the family has a history of cancer ailment.
He noted that the diseases was not a death sentence.
“For me, this is not a decision which I like but I felt I have all obligation, being a member of African Cancer Centre, and also having even donated a performance during the festival, fund raising for cancer, I am under obligation to make it known and to also demystify cancer,” he said.
“Many people feel it is a death sentence. Family feel it; friends, colleagues, they begin to look at you as if you are a ghost once there is rumour you have cancer. No, cancer is not a death sentence, it is curable, I have undergone the treatment and I am able to tell you that I even have a model, that’s my certificate.”
He said he had a good reason for getting personal about it as a few years ago he was invited to become a board member of the Africa Cancer Centre and even delivered the inaugural lecture: Cancers, Lifestyles.
“It never occurred to me to test myself because men have their separate test like women,” he said. “And I have heard people who lost very dear ones, closed ones. They just told me, ‘Prof, we hope you’re having your own?’ And I told them I had one 10 years ago and he said, “No, no, do it regularly.” And by accident in December last year, I discovered that I had cancer.”
Mr. Soyinka said he was interested in using himself to encourage others to take whatever tests are available to them but more importantly to encourage those in charge of health matters to take seriously the cancer menace.
“The important thing is that I am convinced that we have enough funds in this nation to build cancer centres, including research that this nation require,” he said. “It is very capital intensive, some of it, but there are many ways and treatments for cancer just like there are many kinds of cancer. Even diet forms an important part. Diet is critical.”
Mr. Soyinka told us that when he was first diagnosed he considered the disease a nuisance.
“I just felt that it was a nuisance,” he said. “There were a lot of things I wanted to do and it was disrupting my normal existence. I just felt I should start re-adjusting. I just saw it another challenge in life.”
He noted that his initial reaction when it dawned on that he has cancer was to see it as one of those challenges and nuisance that should be dealt with, adding that a time he considered it “an unwanted squatter in his body and had to get rid of it whether it is a slow growing one or malignant.”
Although, “Kongi”, who showed a crest to attest to his surviving the disease, did not reveal to reporters the nature of the cancer he was treated for, his son, Dr. Olaokun Soyinka, who is also the Commissioner for Health in Ogun State, later told The Nation his father was treated for “prostate cancer.”