Esther Ama Morkor

Let the Journey Begin

Esther Ama Morkor stared blankly at the doctor, her whole body trembling and her tongue dryer than it had been that morning. This was the result she had expected, yet hearing confirmation from the doctor's own lips suddenly made it real. It was like something she could touch. Lord, have mercy!

In just a matter of seconds, her whole life rolled out before her like a film reel. She saw her handsome father, Charles Newman, her saintly mother, Hannah Baker Acquah, and her loving siblings. She saw her childhood as the feisty, sassy, precocious Ama Morkor, who did not allow anyone to walk over her. On a normal day, she would have smiled at the thought that she was considered the most troublesome of all her mother’s children. She saw her own children, (Margaret, Philomena, Dominic and Betty), each of them exactly as they had been born. She remembered holding them in her arms. Her children, who saw her as their confidante and critic, as their “go to” person. How would they cope without her? She could see the day she was born again and how her faith in Christ had helped her through the challenging phases of her life. She recalled how she had immersed herself in the work of God and had risen in the hierarchy of the Methodist Church. This was not how it should have ended. She was supposed to grow old, to see her children get married and carry her grandchildren on her back. However, that was not meant to be. There she was, a middle-aged woman dying of cancer.
The doctor’s lips moved, but she didn’t hear him. She didn’t want to hear anymore. All she wanted to do was go home, curl up and sleep.Then as her senses returned, she heard him say resolutely, “there is hope, there is hope. We will use the most aggressive treatment. Trust me.”

Listening as the doctor tried to pump hope back into her, she couldn’t help but see the hopelessness of it all. The die was rolled. Her own body was failing her. Feeling numb, her mind raced back to a few days ago when she first detected the hard mass in her breast; her heart, pumping like mad. She had felt it again, willing it to go away, praying that it was just one of the tissues in her breast, but when she touched it again, it was there, a mass more solid than her breast tissues.

At the  Cocoa Clinic, the lump was removed and sent to the lab for a biopsy. So, there she sat in front of the doctor being told that the lump was cancerous and that her breast had to be removed.

"In those days, the word cancer was synonymous with death. I initially accepted the fact that I was going to die and began to come to terms with it. I thought if that’s the way God wanted to take me, fair enough. The actual dying wasn’t a problem per se, it was the emotional and physical separation from my children that was my main problem. None of them had finished schooling at the time, and that was the saddest part for me. I kept the diagnosis and treatment from them in order not to burden them. I believed that breaking the emotional bond between myself and my children would make the dying process easy for me, so I started to distance myself from them."

One day, while at a prayer meeting, a prophecy came clearly to her, “This is not unto death, but for My own glorification.”

“The word of God had come and I had to hold on to it, but holding on was not easy.”

The prophecy brought some comfort, but as she sat down to eat the following morning, a small voice whispered in her ears, “What makes you think that you will survive this? How special are you from all the other people who have died? “Putting the tea cup back on the saucer, her tongue dried out again.

“That is when the real battle actually begins. That is, the spiritual battle. As soon as I tried to be strong, the negative thoughts crept in. But once I accepted God’s word that I was not going to die, I told myself that I was going to live to the glory of God.”

Esther had been warned about the effects of chemotherapy, but nothing prepared her for the reality of it. So when one day, while combing her hair, large clumps of hair began falling from her head, she felt terrified. Coupled with this was the loss of appetite, the sore mouth and throat, the vomiting, the consistent tiredness, her gnarled, discoloured nails, her ashy skin, and the sheer weight loss. The effects of chemotherapy took their toll on her. There were days when she felt she would not live to see the next day.

“It was a real battle. One minute you feel fine, you are not going to die, and the next minute you think you don’t have the will and you are going to die.”

It helped that her children were all away in boarding school. So far, she had succeeded in keeping the secret from them, and she thought she was doing a good job of distancing herself from them. Until one day, while in her bathroom, the door opened and who walked in but her son, Yooku, leaving her feeling very stunned.

Says Yooku,

The year was 1994. I had left school to buy stuff at the Sonturk Supermarket when I bumped into my uncle, Professor Micah, at the supermarket. After pleasantries and a brief chat, he mentioned that they (Uncle Micah and Auntie Gladys) would always be there for me and my siblings and concluded by saying that with God all things were possible, so we should continue to live in the hope that Mummy would be healed. This conversation got me slightly puzzled, but I attached little significance to it at the time. A few weeks later, I went home. When I got in, I was told Mummy was in her bedroom. I went upstairs and heard a noise from her bathroom, so I went in and saw my mother. She was sitting in the bath, bald with a few strands of hair sticking up like iron filings attracted to a magnet. She turned sideways but was not quick enough to hide her mastectomy scars. I also noticed that her fingernails had turned brown and she kept vomiting. She stepped out of the bath, robed, and told me she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer.

This was a big blow to Yooku, who asked her what the prognosis was. However, she didn’t answer him. Rather, she delved into an indirect lecture about what she expected of him in her absence, causing him to go numb, his legs suddenly becoming weak and unable to support his body.

I tried muttering a few words, but my lips were sealed. I tried crying, but not a single tear dropped on my cheeks. Even though I was present in the room with Mummy, it felt like I was in a trance. I can’t explain the experience, and I have never shared this weird encounter with anyone, not even with my beautiful beloved wife Dora. I was angry and was expressing my anger with whoever I was talking to. It was a blurry experience, as though I was high on some substance. The sensation lasted for what I believe was a few minutes, yet it felt like a few hours. I am not sure how I felt that day or how I got back to school. My body was dead to the news, and I went to school and carried on as though nothing had happened. I realise now that I was in denial. The real impact of Mummy’s diagnosis was to hit me many years later. I have only once discussed Mum's illness and the effect it had on me as a young lad.

His sisters also got to know the secret. Margaret isn’t sure how she found out, but someone inadvertently mentioned that her Uncle Nettey and Auntie Akweley had organized to have Mummy admitted to Cocoa Clinic, where she was receiving treatment for breast cancer.

Mummy? Cancer? How? I remember I was at home in Cape-Coast and my head was spinning in various directions. All I could think of was, I have to be with my mummy. I rushed to the roadside looking for a commercial vehicle that was en route to Accra. I must have been looking distraught and anxious because a non-commercial vehicle stopped, and the driver asked whether I was heading to Accra. Without thinking of the imminent danger of sitting in a stranger’s car, I hopped into his car and the gentleman gave me a lift straight to Accra, all the while I kept thinking... I have to get to the mummy. Mummy cannot die.

Their other sister, Philo, remembers when she first heard the horrible news.

I remember when I got the call. I didn’t even know how to react. I had little knowledge about cancer, but then all I could take away from what was said was that there was little chance of survival. I was distraught, but my father assured me that he would do everything medically possible to save her. I was completely shielded from any horrible experiences, so I don’t have much to say. And yes, she beat it. God has been gracious to her. I remember new baby hair and beautiful new glowing skin...

The prophecy came true. Mummy Esther did not die.

To cut a long story short, I am still here, more than 20 years after the diagnosis and treatment. What God declared concerning my life has prevailed, and I am a living testimony of God’s healing power and His goodness. I think I was 52 when I was diagnosed, but I am now 80.My advice to anyone going through a similar predicament is that you must work on both the physical and spiritual dimensions of it. I am convinced that there is a spirit behind cancer. While the doctors are working on the physical side, the spiritual dimension will also need to be tackled by prayer. Also, I was fortunate in a way, as my attending doctor had recently lost his wife to cancer, leaving behind young children. He chose an aggressive form of chemotherapy and was determined to support me with the lessons learnt from his late wife’s experience. Prior to my surgery, he briefed and prepared me about the implications so that I could understand what would be in my best interest. In cases where breast cancer patients opted to leave some of the breast tissue for cosmetic purposes instead of removing everything, the cancer re-appeared elsewhere in the body and created complications.Currently, medical technology is so advanced that whilst you are in the theatre, the malignant tissue can be removed and precise surgery or treatment can be carried out, but that was not the case in my day. The word "cancer" itself was so frightening at the time I was diagnosed. These days, there are so many survivors, and the diagnosis is not as frightening depending on the type and when it is detected. There has been great advancement in medicine.

As her children and grandchildren call her, Queen Esther, advises people to open up about the diagnosis to close family members.

When I opened up to close family members, I received 100% family support. My cousins in Accra who were in the medical field gave me a lot of support. Some people resist mastectomy as a treatment, but I was open to anything that would allow me to be free of cancer and stay alive.

View Queen Esther picture gallery

Scroll to Top