Adenike’s story is one of resilience, tenacity and hope. She’s beaten disability and everything that came with it to its own game. She’s undeterred and determined to enjoy her life against all odds and in this interview, we get a glimpse into the life of a young woman who has found her rest in her God.
TELL US ABOUT THE ACCIDENT AND HOW IT GOT TO THE POINT WHERE YOU HAD TO HAVE YOUR LEG AMPUTATED
amputated my leg on the 4th of February 2006, but prior to that I had been told a few months earlier after falling at home that I had a trauma and because of the trauma I have to undergo some form of drainage and that the drainage was going to equally require some medical procedure. I underwent the medical procedure, went back to school because I was in my second year in the university. Went back to school, not getting better, came back to Lagos, went back to the hospital and they told me that the procedure was not successful the first time and that I needed to undergo the procedure again. I underwent the procedure again, went back to school, and this time it started to deteriorate. I had to go back home because at this point I could not move, I could not do anything and incidentally I knew that’s the only option, after weeks of denial and trying other options: I tried medicals, prayers, I did everything but I was dying slowly and I could literally see for myself that I was dying. It was cancer and cancer is when your cells are growing abnormally, so my limb was massive, it was my knee but it started to extend and I knew without a doubt if I needed to stay alive or be alive for my family and for myself, I needed to allow the doctors amputate my leg, which was what eventually happened. So it was months and months of denial, months and months of accepting the new reality, months and months of not even bothering about what will happen in the nearest future. I was not concerned about what will happen in the future, I just wanted solution and I just wanted to be well again, I wanted to move again. I wanted to not be in pain again, I wanted to be happy, I wanted to be glad, I wanted to be everywhere because I’m a reckless person. From the diagnosis to the eventual journey of finding myself at the University College Hospital, Ibadan and agreeing with the doctor who had seen me and said it was an orthopaedic emergency, I knew the only option was to amputate my leg.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST REACTION WHEN THE DOCTORS TOLD YOU YOU HAD TO AMPUTATE YOUR LEG
When I was told initially that I had to amputate my leg, I was shocked as almost everybody will be. Shocked, disillusioned, I lived in denial I did not accept it. It didn’t sink in, it took a while for me to understand, accept and finally admit to what the doctors had said. In my case it wasn’t a “doctor tell you now and you accept whatever it is they are saying”. The few weeks and the months that went by literally did see me accepting that this was a new reality, and the only option was to amputate my leg. So it was a turn of event that eventually made me agree and see very clearly that there was no choice save to amputate my leg.
SINCE THEN, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO DEAL WITH NEGATIVE AND DEPRESSING THOUGHTS?
Thankfully I have not had negative thoughts as concerns my amputation. Depressing thoughts? Honestly, maybe yes but not depressing enough to keep me in a very dark place. Thankfully the moment when I figured I was depressed, I just realised that I needed help and I reached out for the help. The few times I was depressed or showed signs of depression, which I did not even know, loving people around me were able to point it out to me and that equally helped me to get help from them, then to speak about my journey, to speak about where my mind was, to speak about the help that I needed and required. And I think that the Jesus factor, honestly speaking, has just been able to give me a wellspring of joy. For instance, I woke up this morning very sad, very despondent, I clearly believed without a doubt that all that was going to help me was just to worship and pray. For people who do not know, it doesn’t make sense, but for people like myself who understand what it means and how effective it is in these moments – because they would come up every now and then – the only anchor and solution that I know is God. Friends, food, movies, and sometimes talking about it, sometimes reaching to people, reaching out to some else who is not as opportuned as I am, also makes me a little appreciative and that keeps me grounded and allows me live the reality that I am just fortunate and should be grateful for everything that has happened.
HOW DID THIS AFFECT YOU EDUCATIONALLY?
I was in my second year in the university and thankfully (Government university), there was strike, so I missed just a semester but I knew that I needed to go back to school because I did not want to miss another semester which would automatically be an entire year. So after my final course of chemotherapy from the hospital, I told my father “hey take me back to school”. I went back to school and of course my faculty knew I have been away from a semester, so they told me to do as many courses as I knew I could handle. I split the courses in two halves: the semester I went back to school initially and the next one. I found myself taking about 16 to 18 courses, I had four unit courses. And to the glory of God till date that was the best result I ever had throughout my five-year period in my undergrad. Somewhere in my mind I just knew that God definitely does has a sense of humour. Why did it have to be that year when I had like 16 courses to take. In four unit courses, I got A’s and B’s and I was not in school the entire semester. I resumed just two weeks to the exams and thankfully they extended it by another week and in 3 weeks, I had gone through a bombardment of tutorials. As one person is leaving another is coming to take the tutorial and the result came out and I got A’s and B’s. I think that’s part of the reasons my result never ended up in a third class of some sort because that year I had very very good grades. So the amputation and medical journey did not impede literally my academic year, it just made me take a lot more than I ordinarily would have and make a lot of people sympathetic towards me: my classmates, my course mates, my seniors, my lecturers, my faculty officers, my dean and all of that.
DID YOUR AMPUTATION HOLD YOU BACK IN ANY WAY FROM PRACTICING LAW?
Well my amputation did not stop me from practicing law. I went back to school third year, fourth year, fifth year, I went to law school, NYSC, it was a choice not to practice law. I just knew I was not going to practice law from my law office attachment and my court attachment. It was burdensome and I knew that this was not the life I was about. So I don’t think my amputation stopped me, I strongly believe that if I had decided that I wanted to practice, I would have risen the ranks, years and years after my call to bar. I just chose by myself to not practice and then my journey into media is another story entirely. So I don’t think my amputation had any part to play, honestly it hasn’t stopped me from getting things. Yeah sometimes I try to take advantage of it, for instance when there’s a queue, my friends would ask me to go and beg in front and all of that, we are just having fun, nothing dramatic thankfully. I think I’m still one of the few that are very opportuned to not have had their amputation keep them or stop them from doing several things.
DID YOU LOSE FRIENDS ALONG THE WAY?
I think that the people who I thought were friends and that I may have thought that I lost are people who eventually did come back but never understood what it was as at the time when it happened. I didn’t lose friends, there were family members who didn’t understand what I was going through, who didn’t know what cancer was, who were scared, who decided to just take a break, but eventually showed up again when I was back. So I don’t think I lost friends honestly speaking and I’m very grateful that that never happened to me. All the people that were by me when I was undergoing chemotherapy are the people who still stood by me. And maybe for some of them we’ve outgrown each other, which is okay in the circle of life but I think with everyone of them, we are somewhere where if we need each other, we can always reach out to one another and help each other.
HAS ANY OF YOUR PARENTS OR MEMBERS OF YOUR FAMILY BEING JEERED AT OR TAUNTED BECAUSE OF YOUR AMPUTATION?
Incidentally I told my father to recount the story to me and I think my mum is the only one that has had an experience where she had been made fun of and told me. I don’t know if it had happened to any other person, besides it’s just me, my mum and my dad – I’m an only child. I don’t know if anything has happened to my father but my mum told me, she wasn’t going to tell me but I found out weeks and months after it has happened. She had an argument with a neighbor who was indebted to her and from nowhere, refusing to pay the debt, the woman just goes “hey after all your daughter has one leg” and all that. My mummy just asked to pray with me and when she wasn’t there I cried because it was none of her fault and it wasn’t something she had planned or any of us has planned. Eventually the neighbor came around and apologized to my mum, saying she was out of line and that it’s improper for her to have spoken that way. I think everybody moved on and forgave her, I have forgiven her, my parents and family have forgiven her and I hope she has forgiven herself as well.
A LOT OF PUBLIC PLACES IN NIGERIA ARE NOT PROPERLY EQUIPPED WITH FACILITIES TO HELP PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO COPE WHEN YOU HAVE TO VISIT SUCH PLACES.
My experience with living in Nigeria and going to a few places out of the country just always frustrates me as a person living with disability. And I think that the best that can happen is for people like myself who are opportuned to know, speaking up every now and then, to keep talking to the government and private owned building facilities owners that they need to be inclusive when it comes to people living with various forms of disabilities. It’s not just about the ramps, there are many other things. Imagine that our airlines do not even have very good ramps, good wheelchairs and other facilities at the airport. These are things that just frustrate you but I believe that as a Nigerian, if you can survive here, then you can survive everywhere. For every day you wake up, there’s a different battle and I’m willing to choose my battle. I go to a building and they don’t have facilities for people like me, sometimes I bring down the heavens and the earth, sometimes I don’t worry myself, I do what it is I have to do, however long it takes me to do it. When I get out of the building, I always make sure I leave a comment: “You should do better”, “You can do better”, “This is wrong” and all sorts. Disability doesn’t necessarily mean my form of disability, there are several other forms of disability and so, we should all have an inclusive society.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH BAD VIBES FROM PEOPLE?
I don’t notice these things, honestly speaking. I don’t notice whether you are nice, whether you like me, whether you are staring at me or have questions, I absolutely do not notice. It’s like a sound board, it comes and it goes, it doesn’t stay on me. As humans, a lot of people don’t understand what it is so I’m in a place where my watchword now is love. It’s hard but I try to love the unlovable and as a person who understands pain I might know that it’s not easy to love people who are not into you. There are days you meet me and you are staring and I’m like, “do you want to know what happened?” And there are days that you stare and I’m like “do you mind, I’m self conscious now because of you and I feel like you are staring too much at me”. So it differs on my mood and several other factors.
YOU INSPIRE A LOT OF PEOPLE, PHYSICALLY CHALLENGED AND OTHERWISE, NOT TO WALLOW IN SELF PITY. WHERE DO YOU GET THE STRENGTH ?
God! My strength comes from God and I don’t think I will ever underestimate it. I’m not mincing words, I don’t have any self help book. My joy, my strength, who I am, who I’m not, everything is always centered around God. I kid you not, nothing in this world can ever recreate the joy that God gives. There’s a well in every human, you decide what it is that you put in there. I’ve decided that joy will be the wellspring from which I draw out every single day. There are days I’m not high, there are days I’m absolutely not in the mood, but I continue to use the strength of the Lord to draw out the strength and joy that I need from this well. So my inspiration comes from God, people I work with, I work with a foundation that provides children with prosthetic limbs. When I’m sad and I remember my two year or three year old amputee friend, it re-energizes me. I recently signed up on Amputees United and every single day I meet someone virtually or physically challenged and there’s always a need for us to be constantly holding each other, helping each other, holding hands and just helping and encouraging. There are days maybe when we would love to cry, and I love the fact that I have able bodied people around me who literally would allow us to cry together, laugh together, play together and we are real. It’s not every day all high but honestly on a scale of one to ten, maybe 7.5 percent all high. I’m trying to get to a place where it’s 9.5% high. So many people say it’s absolutely impossible but I think it’s possible and the good news is it’s going to be a 100% possible.
TELL US ABOUT THE BOOK YOU ARE WRITING.
Yes I’m writing a book and it would be out very soon. It’s basically about my journey in the last few years since I’ve been amputated. Little things that I’ve consciously left out from almost all of the interviews I’ve done. I know that as Africans, there are many things that we need to know especially from the experiences of people. So I’m super excited that my book will be out, I’m super excited that lives would be changed. I’m super excited that finally I will get some relief off my shoulder. I’m super excited that I would be able to recount my story, as it happened from my standpoint, as it happened from the standpoint of my father, as it happened from the standpoint of onlookers and friend and who knows, a former lover, you never can tell. Just wait for the book, it promises to be exciting, I’m super excited about it and everything that would come from it.
SPEAKING ON LOVERS, ARE YOU ROMANTICALLY INVOLVED AT THE MOMENT?
No I’m not. Honestly I won’t say I’m in a relationship now, no I’m not, I’ll rather just say that when it’s time to get married, everybody will know.
WERE YOU IN A RELATIONSHIP AT THE TIME YOU HAD TO HAVE YOUR LEG AMPUTATED?
Yes I was in a relationship before I had gotten the initial diagnosis. We were having our issues and I am not sure, to be very honest, if we probably may have continued our relationship if I had not had the diagnosis or if I had not had to take time away from school. I’m not sure how that would have panned out but of course I had been in a relationship prior to the whole thing. I was still holding on to some fate somewhere, but I remember my cousin telling me and hitting me back to reality about the whole possibility or not about this said relationship. So we had our faults, we had the issues that had come but honestly I do not know and I’m not preempting the likelihood that we may have continued but yes I had been in a relationship prior to the diagnosis.
WERE YOU IN LOVE WITH HIM?
I don’t think I was in love with him, never sure he was in love with me though.
ARE YOU GUYS STILL FRIENDS?
No we are not friends, we are probably acquaintances. It’s been a while and it’s honestly by a choice of mine. The said person sent me a friend’s request may be a year or two ago and I declined. No hard feelings, we’ve moved on.
ARE YOU SURE THERE ARE NO HARD FEELINGS?
Honestly I remember having a final conversation and it gave me closure with the said gentleman. We spoke, I did finally hear him out and I also did speak so I think there’s was a misconception that there was a need for him to come apologize to me. And I honestly didn’t not feel that there was a need to but I did listen to him and we had a conversation. It was not a physical conversation. I met him at the mall and for the life of me, I felt no animosity towards him and he was shocked. I was excited, you know when they say you see your ex and you are looking so fly, yeah that was the moment.
YOU ARE A VERY ADVENTUROUS PERSON, FOR TIMES WHEN YOU TIRE OUT, HOW DO YOU RECUPERATE?
This morning I told my friends that I think that I’m about to break down and that I need time away from everyone. I’ve learnt to refuel which is not something the average Nigerian knows how to do. We just work, work, work and die. I’m learning to take time off, I’m learning to literally break free in my mind and it’s translating to physically activities. Twice this year I’ve climbed mountains, I was hoping to do about four or five but who knows, before the end of the year. So I’m excited that I did that, I’m excited that I learnt how to swim, I already know how to drive, I got a tattoo finally and I was hoping that I could skydive and all of that stuff. I am sure that sometime before the end of the year, these things will happen. These are just things that make me break free in my mind. There’s so much more to life than just the labourous hustle and bustle. Just look for one small change, book an hotel maybe on the island and stay for the weekend and just shut down. Just do a little vacation with yourself, do room service. I try to do these things, I try to take time off work. I know my friend Mayowa very much understands that food excites me, so whenever I’m sad, she says “where do you want to eat.” Nail colors also excite me alot, so sometimes you just see me paint my nails and I’m excited. Helping people, seeing people smile, excites me. I’m also excited about Jesus. I’m excited about new revelations of Jesus, I’m going to find Jesus sometime soon. I’m going to bethel church in Redding, California second time this year. I’m excited about that, these are things that excite me. Very soon, I will be going to Israel and I’m super excited about that as well.
IF YOU COULD VISIT ANY PLACE IN THE WORLD, ALL EXPENSE PAID, WHERE WOULD IT BE?
All expense paid? I will go right now to Santorini with my friend Tombra, she wants to go there and I want to make it happen for her. It’s not like she has really done plenty things in my life but it’s her kind I would love to go to Santorini with. Honestly, the dream is to go to Santorini with bae, I’m tired of going on holiday with Tombra but in the absence of bae, I will go with Tombra. Maybe when we are on our way back we will just stop in Maldives, Madagascar, Morocco, South Africa, and all those other places: Zanzibar, Tanzania, Namibia, Zimbabwe etc. But since it’s just one place, it’s Santorini.
WHAT’S YOUR FASHION FETISH?
I’m not a very fashionable person but I’ve been glamed up today and no one recognises me. I love my low cut, my colored hair, honestly I love those two things a lot. Very recently, I fell in love with white sneakers, white sneakers gives me life. It excites me, re-energizes me, gives me hope. I literally walk into a place and I see a person I do not know wearing white sneakers and I just go “OMG white sneakers, this is so lit!” So I love comfort alot, my fashion sense is comfort. I love colors, I started to wear colors like two three years ago because all my life, it was white and black. I love my hair, I do not like wigs. I like to braid my hair once a year, I’ve braided it twice this year. I love white sneakers so I’m hoping that brands like Adidas will give me discount codes so everybody can get white sneakers and just be part of the white sneakers movement. It just signifies purity to me, it signifies peace, love and joy. So that’s the summary of the hashtag ‘for the love of white sneakers’. If you ever get to wear a white sneakers, post on Instagram and tag me, and I promise that I would repost on my handle @adenikeoyetunde.
HOW MANY KIDS WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE WHEN YOU GET MARRIED?
I’m an only child, I’ve always wanted a lot of kids. My mum wants this to, so I will have maybe four kids overall.
HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR LEISURE HOURS?
Normally I would listen to music, I’m a Bethel music person. I listen to music alot, I also love movies and series. I love to be driven at night, it excites me. I love good food, good good food. Those are just the few things I do during my leisure. I try to read too but lately, but in the last two months, I’ve not been keeping up with my read-a-book-a-month. I have so many books to read, lots of autobiographies too. I like autobiographies alot, it gives me a picture into the life of the people that are writing. Recently read Trevor Noah’s book and I think it changed my life and perception of that young man and his creativity.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE THAT IS GOING THROUGH A CHALLENGE OR THE OTHER?
Challenges happen to every human being dearly beloved. You lose money today, you are challenged, your house rents increases, you are challenged. Challenges happen to everyone, you are the author of your own joy, I kid you not. There’s always something to be grateful for, it might be very little, but it’s something to be grateful for. This doesn’t have to be personal, it might be the story of the next person beside you. You can be thankful that that person’s mum, dad or beloved did not pass on. So there’s always something to be grateful for, you decide what it is. I did a post this morning on ” staying positive is a conscious act”. I feel pain and I’m sad sometimes but I choose happiness above all and that is why I am who I am today, evolving into the person that God has created me to be. Whatever the challenges are – health challenge, financial issues, fertility issues, relationship matters, issues with the kids, spouse or in laws – if I know God, the best thing for me to do is to ask: what are you doing or what are you about in this season? To this person, I will say, come into your own, enter rest and his name is Jesus. I hope with these few points of mine, I’ve been able to convince and not confuse you that staying happy far outweighs any challenge that you are faced with.