#INTERVIEW: “LOSING MY HUSBAND TO CANCER INSPIRED ME TO START MY FOUNDATION” -ENIOLA SALU AKINTUNDE
Eniola Salu Akintunde is a native of Agbede town, Etsako west of Edo state, Nigeria. Second child in a family of seven children, single handedly brought up by her mother a primary school teacher.
She attended Fazil-Omar Ahmadiya Primary School Onike-Iwaya. She then proceeded to Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School, Yaba, Lagos, where she got her O’levels. Eniola worked briefly at the University of Lagos Medical Center, and later gained admission as a student into the same university, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel management.
Eniola lost her hubby to colorectal cancer, her in laws blamed her for her husband’s death and she was accused of giving him Cancer, the physical and psychological abuse she faced from them before and after his death informed her decision to kick off her NGO; Niola Cancer Foundation , an organization that advocates for better cancer care and accurate diagnosis. She also campaigns against rape and child sexual abuse because of her experience of being a sex slave at the age of 5 till age 6 before she was rescued by her mother.
She is also a multiple award winning Gemstone designer, Head Creative Director & CEO of Styles By Saennys – a company founded over 11 years ago , which deals in rough Natural stones and designing ,situated in the heart of Lagos. She is a member of NECA – Network of Entrepreneurial Women, the Nigeria Association of small scale Industrialist(NASSI) , a member of the NDLEA Celebrity Drug Free Club and also a member Fashion Designer Association Of Nigeria (FADAN ).
She shares her life journey in this interview.
While growing up ,l never knew lm going to be a gemstone designer or go into cancer advocacy,working in an NGO
Eniola Salu Akintunde is a native of Agbede Town Etsako west of Edo State, attends Our Lady of Apostle Secondary School Yaba for my O Level, worked for a few years at The University of Lagos, Medical Center Akoka,Studied Industrial Relations and Personnel Management in the same University .
I have great passion and desire for the cancer cause ,l’m committed to it, working so hard in my own little way with our NGO (Niola Cancer Care Foundation )to reduce death rate from cancer in Nigeria.an award winning gemstone designer the CEO and chief head designer at Styles By Saennys, we design jewellery using well polished and high grade gemstones.
Losing my husband to cancer inspired me to kick off Niola Cancer care foundation?
The year 2012-2013 The life threatening and bitter experience l had when my late husband had colorectal cancer, his final transition in Indian at a young age of 39 and I brought back his corpse for final burial.
How he was managed in Indian was different especially when it comes to latest development to his deteriorating health, His Doctors in lndia do not hoard information from me, l was carried along,l asked all sorts of questions,they answer and replied with empathy and compassion,compared with some of the Doctors that first managed him in Nigeria, also there was NO COLORECTAL NGO IN NIGERIA then, apart from his oncology Dr nobody to talk to ,how we handle health lssues and cancer management here in Nigeria is sadden, l understand and know better now , why most doctors and nurses in our public health institutions are sometimes hostile towards their patients and their relatives,Nigeria health worker are under utilized, the workload on them is too much with low income, Nigeria has very brilliant and qualified doctors and nurses but no tools and equipments to work with,their take-home pay does not quantify their workload.
Battle from In-laws
My other strange and personal experience was from some of my in-laws, especially my sister-in -law during the periods he was ill and after his death, despite l was the sole care-giver to my late husband, l was responsible and l solely looked for funds from friends, from our church and one of my late husband’s uncle to pay for his treatment, every 10 days he will need N350,000 for his chemo,he was on this for a year, and the cancer came back , then l took him to India after doing all this , l was accused of given my husband cancer, that l killed him and my Sister-in-Law abused and attacked me physically and emotionally, while still mourning his death, she beat me up, l was under treatment too , no strength ,l was trying to recover too, because taking care of last stage cancer patient is draining, l wish death could come and take me, l was tired of life, l questioned my existence, whats happening ? Death of a child after waiting on the Lord for years, with several miscarriages and now the death of my husband, my classmate in University ,one of the best hubby in the world, the odds from my childhood….but God stepped in, He restored me and gives me hope of a new dawn…for God to have kept me, I do not have any choice than to serve humanity .HE KEPT ME FOR A PURPOSE….we birth NIOLA CANCER CARE FOUNDATION, The first colorectal cancer NGO in West Africa, from my personal experience.
Venturing into gemstone design
From childhood l got fascinated to colors, l love art, now as an adult ,l’m fashionable, love looking good, l never knew l’m going to end up been a gemstone designer, also an award winner, l started like every other beads designer in 2004,l went into research on natural stone, l got hooked, l travelled to other countries to know more on stones, on those journey l got to know Africa as a continent is the most blessed in the world with natural stone and diamond, Nigeria is one of the countries in Africa with large deposit of gold and natural minerals. our designs can compete with any other designs in the world, my outfit Styles by Saennys started using Chains and mounting gemstones on precious metals way back 2006, our designs are timeless, l represent our company annually in one of the biggest gemstones and diamond Exhibition in the world with over 70,000 visitors and over 2,000 Exhibitors from all over the world, The Hongkong Gem Fair. l pray Nigeria will have something similar someday. Our government needs to look into our mines make review and build standards lapidary, make power supply stable ,this will create more jobs and takes people off the streets, Zambia runs their economy on natural minerals and gemstone mined from their country, South Africa too we all know they are blessed with diamond, their mines is managed by their government and their economy is stable to some extent.
My experience as the official accessories designer of the MBGN 2010
Well it was really another experience for me as a designer taking part in MBGN 2010,Styles By Saennys been the official jewellery designer that year…No monetary compensation from the organizers,we struggled with the organizers at some point before they could mention our outfit in their brochures after providing and designing Jewellery for 36 contestants, my late husband was my manager then ,he represented us in the meeting with the organizers,we were determined to make best out of the situation,we count it all joy today…
What and who inspires you?
First My inspiration comes from God ,for grace and strength to do great exploits, From people around me and great mentors,some l have mention in the past,and some are my secret mentors and they inspire me a lot
The greatest reward For our NGO was when an older friend of mine was surprised that we run Niola Cancer Care Foundation from my jewellery showroom, she paid for Niola Cancer Care Foundation present office that Reward for me, also people who smile when they see you even in pain the cancer patients and their family
Those that was screened and the disease was picked early,They are saved -that’s reward for me
For my jewellery outfit Styles By Saennys clients that are happy for making them look gorgeous and appreciating our creativity ,that’s rewarding
For those that has given up on life and they come to meet me and tell them my story, l tell them they Shouldn’t, they got inspired and get back on their feet and face life head on-That’s rewarding.
Challenges of running my NGO
On The Cancer NGO our religion believes is not helping matters at all, Nigerians won’t allow you talk about cancer before they shot you down and tell you ‘it’s not my portion’ l asked WHOSE PORTION IS CANCER ? We are still in denial ,but we still go ahead with preaching and creating the awareness, Or when they notice something is wrong with their body ,they keep quiet,till when it’s bad, eventually when they know ,they run to churches or mosques ,even shrine instead of seeking medical help first,and take to instruction from their doctor,when the case is beyond the churches they push them out, by the time they get to hospital it’s late ,please Tell your pastor or lmam about your health and seek medical help immediately,their prayer with God on your side will make it easy for the doctor to found solution. When the cancer patients are in their final stage nearing ,End-to life , the society, the system even families and friends disappear ,they gives up on them before the patient died,this is so so wrong, they have a right to treatment,lots of love, support, care and they should be comfortable.That is the reason Niola Cancer Care Foundation visit Cancer Patients on admission in the hospital Twice a year, where we pray with them ,donate gift and show them love. We do this On Niola Founder’s Day which is my birthday every 18th of June Tagged ‘Celebrating With The Victors’ and on Christmas Day ‘Spending Christmas With Champions
-Another major challenge is Funding ,but we don’t allow that to affect us, we are doing our bit, with the little we get from few people, who really appreciate what we doing
Giving up is not in my dictionary …not at all, when Nigeria has the highest death rate from cancer, over 300,000 newly cases every year and over 200,000 death annually from cancer this are recorded case , statistic from WHO, we are in country where people died and Autopsy are not carried out on most of the corpses, so the figure above is far more than that, with all this put together Cancer is an Epidemic , No Cancer Machines, No Radiotherapy machine working in Nigeria, A country with population of over 180m people, no cancer centers, it’s scaring …of course no cure as they make Us to believe but l know early Detection Saves. Get Screened , Go for check up, Nigeria buys aso Ebi, goes to party, that money should be put aside and use it for medical check up, not all checks up are expensive, they should pay attention to their body.
I am a rare gem, a woman of Rubies
Well…. even the bible says ‘the price of a virtuous woman is far above Ruby. Ruby is a gem with high value
Advice to women
We women are powerful,compassionate, resilient and strong, we should always support each other, my sister-in -law is a fellow woman, no competition at all, we should lift ourselves up.
March 23, 2018
March 23, 2018