Chris Opoku: I had cancer of the rectum

That Christopher Opoku is one of the top broadcasters in this country cannot be in doubt. Indeed, he has had a long experience in both radio and television as morning show host and as a quality sports presenter for so long and it has to be said that at the moment he is Ghana’s finest football commentator on television.

But Chris has not been very well these days and I have had people ask me what was wrong with him. I had no immediate answers. Thankfully, two days ago he posted a long testimony on his Facebook wall and I thought I will share it with readers in my column today.

So here you go with excerpts of Chris Opoku’s own account of what he has been through these past 12 months.

Today September 23 2013 is exactly one year since I was operated upon at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi.

In order for you to understand why I ended up on the operating table in the first place. Let me give you some background. I had just come to the end of my three-year contract with Optimum Media Prime (OMP) and after a hard football season, I travelled to the United Kingdom to see my closest friend and his family. It was during the time of the 2012 London Olympics.

Whilst there, I realized that there was blood in my stool any time I went to use the loo.

Upon advice, I resolved to report this at the hospital on my return to Ghana. When I got back, I reported myself at the hospital and initially I was given drugs to combat piles, or so the doctors thought.

After two weeks, the situation had not improved and I realized that I was not eating well and losing weight at the same time.

So I went back to the hospital where, after seeing the surgical consultant, I was asked to undergo a colonoscopy to examine what was really wrong.

I underwent the colonoscopy on a Friday and I was asked to come back to the hospital on a Monday. When I returned to the hospital, the surgical consultant looked at me and said, “Mr. Opoku, the colonoscopy reveals that you have a large tumour in your rectum and I am afraid it looks malignant.”

My whole world was shattered. I had cancer? I remember the consultant asking me to go for a CT scan and reporting back to him whilst a sample of the tumour would be critically examined to determine whether it was benign or indeed malignant.

Eventually I did the CT scans and my sister flew down to Accra so she could accompany me to see the surgical consultant. Before then, she wanted a second opinion and so I went to Kumasi to have a second colonoscopy and that was where I met Dr. Joseph Yorke for the first time.

When we went to see the consultant in Accra, he confirmed our worst fears; that I had cancer of the rectum. He also said that I needed an operation but because the tumour was very close to the anal sphincter, I will need a colostomy which meant that a hole will be drilled in my stomach and every waste product will flow into a bag attached to my abdomen.

Obviously I didn’t want that kind of operation and neither did my sister. Her years of working at KATH enabled her to push some buttons and eventually, Dr. Yorke, who did not know me from Adam, agreed to clear his schedule to operate on me in Kumasi.

At that time, my wife was pregnant with our third child and as you can imagine, I was worried sick about leaving her behind, but because my mother-in-law was due to arrive soon, that kind of took care of things.

I got to Kumasi the next morning and my sister and I went straight to KATH, where I had all the preliminary tests. I also saw Dr. Yorke, and it was agreed that I would go on admission on Sunday, September 23 2012.

Chris with wife, Vivian and daughter

Chris with wife, Vivian and daughter

So that is how I ended up on the operating table on Monday September 24 2012. I was told by my sister that the operation took four and a half hours but by God’s grace it proved hugely successful and I was on admission at KATH for two weeks before I was discharged.

I have to say that God built an army to fight my cause and He used many people to save my life.

Through it all, my wife was able to tarry and to me, she is a very strong woman and indeed a woman of substance. It is not many women who would stay strong in such a situation where your husband is having surgery and you are heavily pregnant, but Mrs. Vivian Opoku more than stood the test of time in that regard and I salute her and will always thank God for giving me such a spouse.

I had to recuperate in Kumasi right through to the month of December. Eventually I was referred to the Oncology department of KATH because it was strongly recommended that I undergo chemotherapy.

Fortunately, the reports after the surgery showed that the entire tumour had been removed and the margins were clear.

I began my first chemo cycle in late November and after discussions with my dad, it was agreed that I would travel to Accra in early December to see my family for the first time since leaving 10 weeks previously.

It was decided that I would surprise my wife with a visit on December 5 2012, which also happened to be my birthday. I got to Accra and was picked up by Michael Katahena, who drove me home. You can imagine the shock when my family saw me for the first time in 10 weeks. It was a joyful reunion with my wife, whom I had missed terribly and my children as well. My mother-in-law had already travelled to see me in Kumasi and I was also happy to see her again.

When I came back to Accra after the second chemo, I had to take the decision to inform my employers of my decision to resign.

They had been gracious enough to pay me my salary for the months of September and October but informed me that they could not do it anymore after that because technically I was out of contract and I was not at post.

Initially talks were ongoing about my taking on a reduced role at OMP because of my illness, but because I felt I needed to make a full recovery and so needed to take things easy, I sent in my resignation.

At that stage, you would have thought that I was crazy to do such a thing because I really had no leg to stand on, but God has a wonderful way of taking care of his people.

I was writing a few articles for the Business and Financial Times before my illness and the editor, William Selasi Adjagogo and deputy, Theophilus Yartey were incredibly supportive.

But would you believe that two hours after I sent in my resignation to OMP, I had a call from Multi TV asking me to act as a panelist for two African Nations Cup games that very day? That was definitely the hand of God. Whilst I was at Multi TV, I also got a call from GTV asking me to appear as a guest on Stage Africa the following day.

By April, my chemotherapy sessions were over, by which time God had shown his mercies in so many wonderful ways. For instance, I wasn’t a good tither at church before my illness and I can admit it, but after I came back to Accra I resolved to pay my tithe every month and the results have been spectacular.

I also have to express my immense thanks to the manager of GTV Sports George Lomotey and his staff. I cannot leave out the staff of Multi TV Sports, as well as the Happy FM Sports crew.

I was finally given the all-clear by my doctor in mid-July. In other words, by God’s miraculous healing power, I have now been freed of the cancer disease.

I wrote this testimony because I want the whole world to know what a mighty God that we serve. If we stop leaning on our own understanding and lean on Him instead, He will do wonders on our lives.

By Francis Doku

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