"Some are bound to die young. By dying young, a person stays young in people's memory. If he burns brightly before he dies, his brightness shines for all time" • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918 - 2008)
Nicole Wesoamo Pwamang's life was short - she died at the age of fourteen. But in the estimation of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, legendary Russian novelist and historian, Nicole's brightness will shine for all time because she "burned brightly" before she died.
From her awe-inspiring experiences with childhood cancer, Nicole left a triple legacy: the Wesoamo Child Cancer Foundation; Born Brave: Wesoamo's Life Story Battling Cancer, her 77-page book with Introduction by this writer; and the inspiration of a brave spirit, still charming through trial.
Nicole Wesoamo Pwamang was born on 24th November -2004 in Accra. She started her primary education at Fountainhead Christian School, Sakumono in 2009 and completed junior high school from the same school in 2017. An intelligent and hardworking pupil, she successfully passed the entrance examinations to Akosombo International School (AIS) in 2017 and was admitted to SHS 1 as a science student.
Nicole was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her right femur in 2013 and had a successful limb salvage surgery the same year in India. She returned to India in 2014 for a second surgery to have a lung nodule removed from her lungs. Her experiences and the difficulties pertaining to patient care propelled her to establish the Wesoamo Childhood Cancer Foundation (WCCF) in 2014.
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In February 2018, Nicole had recurrence of the disease in her lungs and battled the disease as she did previously. Sadly, she was not successful this time and finally passed away on 10th March 2018.
Nicole's dream was to be an oncologist in order to support children with cancer, hence her decision to opt for the science class in AIS. Unfortunately, she could not fulfil this dream. The consolation, however, is that her Foundation will be able to support the few unfortunate children with cancer.
Born Brave is the detailed, blow-by-blow account of Nicole's inspiring fight against cancer, recounted by Nicole herself. It is a brilliant and touching story told with the faith, sensitivity, eye for detail and generous sprinkling of humour all which belie the age of the writer.
The book is divided into nine chapters. The first, "Strange Pain in the Thigh", chronicles first symptoms, and diagnosis at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. "Biopsy at Korle Bu", the second chapter, introduces Nicole - and the reader - to the challenges of her condition - "the monster disease in the name of cancer" as she aptly puts it. "Arrival India" picks up the story from Nicole and mother Gloria's transit and arrival in India to begin her treatment.
In the last chapter, Nicole speaks brilliantly about the rationale for establishing the Wesoamo Child Cancer Foundation. She writes,
A lot needs to be done to support children with cancer. So my immediate plan is to formally launch the WESOAMO CHILD CANCER FOUNDATION to help children with cancer ...From my experience, having cancer is bad enough, but not having money for treatment will be a nightmare. So, for all those who cannot and do not have the kind of support I had, let's all support them in every way we can.
The Introduction dwells on the lessons Nicole imparts through her experience. It is segmented into the sub-themes of Faith, Humour, Family Support, Courage and Devotion, and of course, Bravery. Under Bravery, I write:
Apart from her active faith in God, Nicole had immense support from her family and other social groups. However, how she could endure all these pains of repeat surgery, blood transfusions, chemotherapy, radiation and recurrent emergencies accompanied by nausea, fever, side-effects of chemo, etc. and still come out smiling and sweet, is an eloquent testimony of the uncommon bravery of a pre-teen girl.
The Foreword to Born Brave is by Justice Gabriel Pwamang, Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana and grandfather of Nicole. He writes:
Before Nicole was diagnosed, she was growing up as an intelligent and smart girl who was always engaged in many different things at the same time and appeared a bit impatient with life. The decision to write a book about her fight with cancer and the idea of a foundation on cancer are typical Nicole responses to dealing with any challenging situation that she was confronted with. Her attitude towards every problem was that something can be done about it and throwing up hands in the air was not in her dictionary."
Ultimately, Born Brave has the power to inspire in all, the hope that they also can see out monumental challenges with a positive attitude, a meaningful legacy and a lasting smile.
Born Brave: Wesoamo's Life Story Battling Cancer was launched by the Wesoamo Child Cancer Foundation at The Fitzgerald Events Centre in East Cantonments, Accra on Saturday, November 24, 2018 (RSVP: +233 55 594 5515, +233 55 097 7774).