My friend Regina Ali has been diagnosed with breast cancer that has metastasized to her spine and lungs. When I was in the Peace Corps in Ghana, Regina was my family, my support and my sanity as I learned to navigate a completely different world and culture. She is the sole provider for her two children. She faces enormous challenges to get treatment for herself. I want to make sure she can get it, and I'm inviting you to help me do so. Keep reading for the full story.
I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana, from 2[phone redacted]. For those of you unfamiliar with how Peace Corps works, let me give you brief description of the beginning of service. Once you are chosen to serve, you're flown to your country with a group of new volunteers. You go through 10 weeks of training and then a site is chosen for you where you will spend the rest of your 2-year service. You set off to live all by yourself in a new country, and try to figure out how to serve your new community.
My site was in Nkoranza, close to the middle of the country. Within days, I was introduced to Regina and her family. She lived on the grounds of the hospital, where she and her husband both worked. She cared for their 2 children - teenage daughter, Lily, and baby son, Odeodipus (Ode) - as well as a few nieces and nephews at times. My bond with Regina was immediate. Not only are we both nurses, but we share the same birthday! I spent most evenings with her family. On the rare occasion I would not make it home in time to share the meal with them, I would find a pot of my favorite ground nut soup with rice balls waiting at my doorstep.
Regina is an unforgettable woman. She always has the biggest smile on her face and her arms wide open to hug you as you enter her home. She opened her heart and her table to me, my fellow PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers), and my friends and family that took the trip to come and see my new life. She taught me many survival skills, including how to do laundry-by hand. She introduced me to many different foods and customs. I traveled with her when she was working as a community health nurse, helping weigh babies with a flour sack under a mango tree in rural villages. She became my sister, and a friend for life. We have remained in close contact since I left Ghana in 2007.
Fast forward to now.
Regina has breast cancer that has metastasized to her bone (spine) and lungs. She currently lives in Techiman but must travel to Kumasi for treatment. Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana, is a 2 ½ hour ride by tro-tro (public minivan taxi) from Techiman.
Her daughter, Lily, lives 4 hours away in the Northern region training to become a lab specialist, which she is set to complete in 2021. Her son, Ode, lives at home and is just entering the 7th grade. Regina was widowed in 2009, when her husband fell ill and died suddenly. Since then, she has been raising her children by herself. Even with the loss of her husband, she pursued her dreams by furthering her education and becoming a mental heath nurse (which required an additional 2 years of training).
Regina received her first treatment of radiation on Monday, September 17, 2018. She is starting chemo and plans to continue with radiation over the coming weeks. She will also potentially need surgery because her tumor has now ulcerated her breast tissue.
I am raising money to help with her cancer treatment. This will include: medical bills (doctors visits, labs, medications, treatments like chemo, radiation and possible surgery), transportation costs, hotel accommodations while in Kumasi, supplies of hand sanitizer and facial masks for her protection, replacement for lost wages, and some basic living expenses. I would also like to purchase a phone for her son, Ode, so he can contact her when she is traveling for treatment. I would prefer her to take a taxi cab, which costs more than a tro-tro, to reduce her exposure when her immune system is weak.
She has basic health insurance but it does not cover any cancer treatment, so everything is out of pocket. (In Ghana you pay for most treatments upfront.) If any extra money is raised, it will be put aside for upcoming school fees for both children.
I am reaching out to my family and friends to help me support her through this journey. Any amount will help. I have tears in my eyes as I write this story because I want her to survive to be able to one day meet my two daughters.
Thank you for opening this link knowing that it is asking for your money. Even if you are unable to contribute financially, please send thoughts and prayers to Ghana. Regina needs all the support she can get. Thank you!
￼Regina at work as a community health nurse with Ode, 2006
￼map of Ghana
Map of Ghana. Regina lives in Techiman and travels to Kumasi for treatment. Accra is the capitol.
￼Regina farming cocoa yam, 2017
￼Regina's children. Odeodipus (Ode for short) and Lily, 2017
￼Well child visits to rural communities, 2006
￼Well child visits. (Regina is sitting in the white shirt and tan head wrap), 2006
￼a tro-tro (typical Ghanaian transportation), 2006
￼Regina making rice balls, 2006
￼Regina, Lydia (niece), Me, Ode, Lily, 2006
￼This is the family I ate dinner with every night, there was never a dull moment. (My cousin Rachel was visiting from MN), 2006
￼Ode and Regina, 2018
￼Ode and Lily, 2018
Thank you again and again!!
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