*OVERCAME CANCER, KIDNEY FAILURE
Surrounded by intricately designed Burmese throws, and reclined on a comfortable sofa, Nkiru-Nzegwu Danjuma radiates beauty, health and contentment. In spite of the fact that she has a flight to catch to Abuja later in the evening to attend a crucial board meeting the next day for Volkswagen Automobile of Nigeria she looks decidedly relaxed.
On the wall opposite is a huge portrait of Nkiru and her four daughters taken years earlier. The bond of a loving and united family shines right through. And her girls, they look very protective of her. Saratu, 23, LL.B, LL.M, Asibi, 22, B.A, LL.B, and twins Jennifer and Jessica, 20, LL.B. The last three are scheduled to begin their LL.M come October.
Nkiru’s face lights up as she talks about them. The love is unquestionable, the maternal instinct strong. A fierce determination to be present in her daughters’ lives seems to be one of the prevailing factors of her inspiring recovery story.
Her miraculous recovery means she has been able to see all her daughters graduate and see ‘God molding them’ into the young ladies He wants them to be. ‘When you have four girls you are worried about what might become of them. But they have something in them, they have consistently been obedient, they have consistently listened to the Word of God. They have realized that in embracing God that is where the answer comes from.’
Minutes into a conversation with Nkiru-Nzegwu Danjuma and it is not difficult to gather that she is a woman of unwavering faith in God. No shaking indeed. Very apt.
Her calm demeanor hints at an inner strength that has been honed and refined through trials so intense that others would have broken down long before reaching the point she’s at now.
At the height of her illness, her trademark lustrous mane of impossibly long hair had to be shaved off because of the effects of chemotherapy. Unfazed, she donned a wig and no one knew the difference. It grew back even longer and thicker than before. When she fell ill again, this time suffering renal failure, her hair fell out, every last strand. She took it calmly, not moved by what she saw but by faith, confident it would grow back.
How it all began…
I was feeling very weak and decided to have a medical check-up. The strange thing was that I had just gone to my GP at Harley Street, London for my yearly check up barely after three months. I explained I was feeling weak and had shortness of breath intermittently, so he called me in and called a pathologist.
My haemoglobin had dropped below six! They were alarmed and wanted to probe further. I was sent for colonoscopy and they discovered a tumour in my colon. A biopsy revealed it was cancer of the colon. It was C stage. By the time it gets to the fourth stage you are gone!
I was booked for surgery. The doctor said there was no time to wait. He asked me to go and tidy up my affairs and return. I flew back the same day that I was told. I boarded Virgin Atlantic’s night flight, arrived Nigeria on a Friday morning and headed straight to my office. I tidied up my will and sorted up my office.
But something in me gave me an assurance that it was not unto death. I must tell you that I am a woman of faith. I love God and I serve God. Before this whole scenario played itself out, I had gone to England to visit my daughter who was at Roedean School in Brighton. That night I’d just finished talking to her and I slept off. I had a very strange dream and I saw the General Overseer of Winners Chapel. I wasn’t attending that church. I also saw the Holy Spirit; I couldn’t tell whether it was a man or a woman, but I knew it was the Spirit of God. Both of them actually walked into where I was and I looked up.
I knew the Holy Spirit wanted to talk to me. It took out a map and said, ‘you have to go here and do some work for me!’
Immediately I reacted, because I know that Bishop Oyedepo resides at Winners Chapel which is in Otta. I said, “How can I leave Ikoyi and go to Otta?” I was going to church 15 minutes away. I couldn’t figure it out! I was trying to resist it, although I hadn’t spoken out. I noticed that the Spirit of God was reading my thoughts. I was caught!
I was doing a lot of work in other places. I had the women’s fellowship at home and taught at the School of Evangelism, because I went to Hagen Institute in Singapore. I promised that I would teach and impart whatever I had learned there. I was actually doing that, teaching pastors and others. So I couldn’t understand why I needed to leave my comfort zone to head out to Otta which may take me three hours to get there!
Then Bishop Oyedepo spoke out, ‘What are you saying to what the Spirit of God is saying to you?! As he said that to me, it was like, Hey the gravity of this moment is lost on this girl; she doesn’t even know what she’s talking about! The Holy Spirit is here asking you whether you’ll go on an assignment and here you are trying to argue! So I said, ‘ I want to be in the will of God.’
Then I could see the Spirit of God relax and it left. All I found was that I was at that place with Bishop Oyedepo, and he said to me ‘You are holding something in your hand.’ I looked and found I was holding a piece of paper, 12 inches by 12 inches. There, December, 2003. Remember that cancer came in 2004.
It said, ‘For agreeing to go where I sent you, you have entered in the City of Refuge where the avenger of blood will never touch you.’ I woke up! I was pondering, I couldn’t sleep again. I was disturbed in my spirit. I said, what kind of dream is this?
As each day progressed I became restless and it was like, ‘if you don’t rush to where I have sent you, whatever happens to you is up to you.’ So by March, I called my driver and said, ‘Go and find out where Winners Chapel is!’
I went to Otta where they were having a breakthrough service. I cried from the beginning of the service to the end! I kept saying, ‘I am sorry, this is my Church, and this is my pastor!’ Since that day I hadn’t gone anywhere else. That has been my place of worship. That is the place where I serve God.
The whole thing was so strange because before I went to that Church some young boys from Winners Chapel used to come to my office fellowship. The Holy Spirit said to me, ‘Find out from them each time they are giving offering, make sure you sow on that ground because it is fertile.’ I found that I would package my offering and send to that place. I was sowing into the Church. In 1996 they had invited me to a Breakthrough Service when the Church was at Iyana Ipaja. I could identify with that place and I said to myself, ‘This is the place I am used to.
I come from the School of Kenneth Hagin and for seven years, every year I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the Camp Meeting. I was hungry for God. I love God and I serve God! That was my attitude. The kind of faith Kenneth Hagin was teaching I could find it there. I said the person who is the teacher to these boys must have had an impartation from Kenneth Hagin. Only for me to get to that auditorium and find him making reference to Kenneth Hagin! I was at peace with that.
All I could hold on to was the word I had received from God during that encounter – that it wasn’t unto death. I had gone to the City of Refuge and when you go into the City of Refuge, the avenger cannot touch you!’
The doctor who had done the colonoscopy said, ‘Come, you know this is not the common cold! He was trying to bring home the gravity. I said to him, ‘Whatever it is, it is not unto death I can assure you!’
Within that week of running around tidying things up, I just went into the office and shut the door. I said a simple prayer, ‘God, this is not unto death. These four children can never be abandoned! It is not like you! I ask you to give me an opportunity to raise them. I am not raising them for me. I am also raising them for you, because if they are responsible Christians in life that will bring you honour.’
I never said a word to any of my staff. I just told them I was travelling. I had to seek God during that period. I never said a word to anyone because by the time they sympathise and are alarmed that is exactly what will kill you, not the cancer itself!
Not even to my children! My eldest daughter was doing her A Levels at Roedan. But she is a clever child, by the time I came home and started taking medications she went on the internet and found they were cancer medications. I had to face her to explain, ‘I will not die because God has shown mummy that she won’t die.’
We pray a lot in my home. We love God and we hold on to him. My children believed with me and I went for surgery. They booked me and the night before the surgery, Dr. Springle said, ‘can I have a discussion with you?’ he came in while I was listening to the tapes of my Bishop and I had books on healing. He sat down and said, ‘ I am afraid the PET scan doesn’t look very good.’
I said, ‘Dr. Springle, would you like to leave the room?’ Because I don’t want to hear! My appointment with you is for tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock and I will see you.’ So he left the room.
I continued with my prayers and praise until I slept off. The following morning I was ready. It was for 10 am and at about 9:30 they had sent someone to come and take me in. it was in the middle of winter, January 12 2005. As I was sitting in that place, all of a sudden, in that darkness of winter came a shaft of bright light. It was as if the sun came out just for me. It just lit my whole body. I said to the operating team, ‘You see the sun is shining for me.’ They looked at me like, ‘What’s going on here?’ I was basking in that shaft of light that came on me.
I was wheeled into the theatre for the operation. It was a four or five hour surgery. I was put in intensive care, on life support. I was drifting in and out of consciousness. The doctor came in and sat on the bed, in the same manner he’d walked in.
I said to him, ‘What do you want again?’ he said, ‘Something really happened! I have gone into your stomach and I have taken out all the cancer.’ I was just looking at him. He said, ‘In all those places that the PET scan showed cancer, the cancer had gone! He would have to call the Oncologist so they could have a meeting on this.
By the time they took me back to my private room, he came back and told me everything was okay. The Oncologist had analyzed everything and said I would need only 12 treatments of chemotherapy. I had to have chemotherapy every other week. During that period I was led in my spirit and I wanted to be in Church, so I would have my chemotherapy and fly back to Nigeria to attend Church every Sunday. I was taking instructions from the Spirit of God. It took me six months. By August I had concluded. By September they said they would wait for a while and see how it goes. You know it’s a waiting game, you now have to wait for them to put you through all the big scanning, all the heavy equipment to check every part of your body to ensure there’s no trace of cancer.
They sent back for the PET scan and it showed again that I had cancer showing up in some parts of my body, but the Oncologist said, ‘There’s something wrong here!’
That was how I was completely cleared, there was no more cancer! They said every four months I had to come in for check up. For colon cancer, after two years they clear you completely. After two years they cleared me and I have maintained good health till now.
Never Rains but Pours!
The chemotherapy I was subjected to depressed my kidneys. My renal function was very poor, but if you saw me you’d never imagine that I had kidney problems, because none of the symptoms of renal failure manifested. I was so asymptomatic! To the extent that when I delivered a lecture at the NBA Conference on August 19 last year where they gave me an award nobody had a hint that a week from then I was going to have surgery for transplant! I had the transplant at Apollo hospital, India, one of the medical centres of excellence.
I didn’t discuss it with anybody. Sometimes you ask yourself, who do I go to with my problems? Will they solve it? It’s only God that can give you the permanent solution that you are looking for. So, I resorted to what I knew best to do, prayers and taking instructions from the Holy Spirit. That was how I weathered that storm and it’s a thing of the past today.
My children took both illnesses calmly. They had been raised with prayers; they had been raised in the Church. Their faith had grown over the years; they were able to stand in prayers with me. They encouraged me. They are my friends and we went through that storm together. With the help of God and with God being our master we won at the end of the day.
So, today they have their mother with them! I am glad to be alive, to be seen in all those great halls of the universities attending their graduation! You couldn’t imagine my joy, especially this year. At Essex University, I was the only one who had two daughters graduating in law. The Chancellor said to us, come on, give vent to your feelings!’ So when they called my first girl ‘Jennifer Danjuma!’ I screamed out, ‘Bravo Jen!’ then they said, ‘Jessica Danjuma!’ I said ‘Bravo Jess! One for everybody, two for me!’
Colon Cancer Screening
People must try to do a colonoscopy from time to time. You find that all sorts of things go on in there. Some people eat and drink all sorts of things without knowing the effect of what they are eating. My breakfast must now contain a lot of fibre, so I don’t joke with my oats, I don’t joke with my shredded wheat! I’m very careful about what I eat now.
Advice to Others in Similar Situations
I can only profer a solution from the kind of thing that has helped me in life: faith in God. The word of God put in me good stead to be able to weather this storm without shaking.
When you hear from God, you have heard well and His word says he will honour his word above His name.
On Mothers’ Sunday this year I received an email from my children saying, ‘Thank you for being a great mum thank you for always being there. Thank you for being our friend. But we must thank you for the greatest gift that you have given to us, the knowledge of God!’ that has been very uplifting to me, because when you have four girls you are worried about what might become of them. But they have something in them, they have consistently been obedient, they have consistently listened to the word of God. It is not really me; it is God in their lives and they have realized that in embracing God that is where the answer comes from.
Full Time Ministry
I love God! Not only do I love God, I have also sat down to study his word. You are a lawyer, I am a lawyer and we’ve had masters and mentors we have admired as lawyers. I keep thinking and talking about my father in the profession, Mr. Kehinde Sofola SAN. So it is with God. You know how it is even with our earthly fathers, they bless you. Look at the relationship between God and David, it’s a typical example. I used to look at the Bible and and say what did David do that the flag of David flies over Israel as a national flag? What has David done that when everyone says Jesus, they say, ‘Son of David!’ They leave almost 150 generations to link David to Jesus! Yet David exhibited his humanity.
The Spirit of God said to me, ‘Pick up the psalms and see his passion for God.’ So I told God, ‘More passion for you!’ I love God and I minister the word and for the past 13 years I hold a fellowship for women in my home on the last Saturday of each month. Then people invite me to speak at fellowships and at Churches; so it’s a daily thing.
In my office, every Friday there is prayer there and everyday there is prayer. Everything I do is centred on God. Without God where will we be? Without God there is no achievement. Without God everything we seek becomes like a mirage, an optical illusion, but with God, when he shows you something he gives you a sample. He told me, ‘You will enter the City of Refuge.’ Indeed having gone through cancer and survived it I really entered into the City of Refuge!
I have a great spiritual mentor in the person of Bishop David Oyedepo. He chews the word, eats the word and drinks the word. When you are looking at such examples you keep your eyes focused on those who have achieved.
When people have love for God they shall be strong. He said, ‘Those that know their God shall be strong and they shall do exploits.’
Everybody around me sat in sorrow and it was like, ‘Oh my God look at this!’ I had very long hair and it was my trade mark. I didn’t look at it like it that because I always look at the spiritual. I keyed into that and said to the Holy Spirit, ‘Now the hair is gone!’ He said to me, ‘What do you do to have your hair back? You confess that you want your hair back. You have to confess the hair back into being. You get up from that table, go to your bathroom and pick up a vale of anointing oil. Put it in water and bath from head to toe and tell me what you want.
The hair grew back, longer than what I had before! It will always come.
Volkswagen of Nigeria Automobile Limited was bought by the Honda Group led by Sunil Vaswani. They are into cars, they know cars. They are very good at dealing with cars and they have bought into what they know how best to do. I am very upbeat about what VON would do. We have already seen papers and before the end of the year, the vehicles would be rolling out of the production line. At lot of Nigerians who had been out of job will have their jobs back.
I’m also chairman of Dominion Air, which is the airline of Winners Chapel. Dealing with aircrafts and pilots led me to the terrain of aviation law which my firm specializes in.
A Woman of many Parts
The joy of the Lord is my strength. I make sure that I start off with dipping into the word, to make sure that I do not lose my joy. When I am joyful I find that I have interest in so many things.
I write law books. Sitting on the board of so many companies is something that comes without my making any effort. I enjoy hard work. Mr. Sofola always sang this mantra, ‘Hard work does not kill, what will kill you is laziness!’ All of us who had an encounter with the spirit impartation of that great man, his professional spirit rests on us. You find that all of us are restless. We can never do enough! It’s with pleasure that I do the things that I do. Also it is with the grace of God on my life that makes it possible for me to do them. If I cannot dip into the word and draw from the Spirit of the Lord then I am unable to perform.
State of our Healthcare Delivery
It is so shameful that a nation like Nigeria at this time cannot boast of hospitals that are centres of excellence in such surgical feats like heart transplantations, kidney transplantations and so on! The amount of money that has been through the hands of Nigerians is public funds in private pockets! Because of that we are suffering. The people who govern must sit down and think that one day it could be my daughter, it could be my brother. There are no hospitals, no clinics, there is just nothing they can boast of and say, ‘This is what we have achieved.’
There’s no medical care and there is even no social security that works in this nation. It’s a shameful thing that a nation with so much wealth from oil that should make every Nigerian live comfortably has nothing to show for it. The leaders of this country have actually let this country down! There is no centre of excellence here; go to India and you’ll find centres of excellence! The work culture is different. They are committed to what they are doing because there is appreciation for those who do the work. But here, there is no joy in working amongst the civil servants. Apart from that compensation is not there, there’s no dignity in labour.
Go down to small Ghana there, they don’t have the kind of money we have, but they take pride in whatever they are doing. They make sure they better the lives of their people, but here you can’t boast of that.
The shameful state of our nation behoves on all of us who feel this way to try to make an effort. But the way politics is played in this nation, you find that a lot of people would not want to get entangled in it because it’s too dirty, it ends people’s lives for no reason. Money is the ultimate at the end of the day. That is the value system of Nigeria. That has to be addressed from the roots. Until things change I wouldn’t want to be seen as a charlatan.
Johanan…The Favoured One
I have enjoyed tremendous favour in every aspect of my practice and in my life. I really owe a lot to God. He is speaking expressly in my life.
As we make to leave, taking in the stylish and elegant woman before us, at peace with herself, looking a picture of perfect health, it is impossible to deduce that she was diagnosed with 5% renal function only last year, and inconceivable that she has endured the harrowing ordeal of colorectal cancer.
She invites us to feel the fistula in her inner elbow, underneath her red silk jacket. It’s a hard small object of about an inch, inserted by surgeons when she underwent her transplant. In emergency situation it alerts medical personnel who may not know the patient’s history that she has had a transplant and appropriate medical action is taken.
She walked into hospital on her own two feet. Doctors were amazed that her body had been filtering waste without dialysis!
We remark her poise in the face of the challenges life has thrown her way. It is, she says, the finger of God in her life.
An encounter such as this is bound to make you put things in perspective. As we leave, each member of the team is lost in their thoughts about this amazing woman, Nkiru-Nzegwu Danjuma. Lawyer. Poet. Author. Businesswoman. Mother. Inspiration. Faithful. Strong. Lover of God. Proof Producer…