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Former Nigeria goalkeeper, Bidemi Aluko has said she is unable to have chemotherapy for breast cancer as hospitals in Nigeria focus on treating Covid-19.
After a diagnosis of breast cancer in January 2019, Aluko was braced for a-year-long session of chemotherapy and possible surgery, and the former Super Falcons keeper underwent 10 chemotherapy sessions before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
But now, like it’s common with hospitals across the country, the hospital in Ibadan where Aluko was receiving the treatment has told patients with other conditions to stay away. “I couldn’t go to the clinic because of my health status – we were told that people with existing health issues should stay out of the clinic,” Aluko told BBC Sport Africa. “They are attending to people whose cases they deem as critical.”
Aluko was forced to seek medical care at a private hospital outside Ibadan. But last month that no longer became an option as Aluko “ran out of funds. “The 27-year-old was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2017. She was given the all-clear a year later after undergoing treatment and a mastectomy.
In 2019, she spoke of how she had to pay $1,305 for each of 10 doses and had “sold everything” in order to pay for it. But the disease returned in January 2019. With her career over due to her diagnosis, Aluko cannot afford her subsequent treatment.
Her husband, who has been a financial support, is now unemployed due to the COV impact on jobs in the country.
“I do not have the money to pay for the subsequent drugs,” she explained. “My husband lost his job as a result of the financial constraint impacted by coronavirus.”
Last year, Aluko received nearly $13,000 (£10,000) from the Nigerian Football Federation for her treatment. But the former Rivers Angels goalkeeper is still in need of more funds to continue her treatment – though she concedes the Football Federation may have done enough.
“The Nigerian Football Federation has really done a lot for me by providing the initial funds for my treatment. Although I have exhausted my funds, I do not want to be a burden on the Federation.”
In July last year, Aluko’s plight led Nigerian politician, Ibrahim Olarenwaju to sponsor a bill urging the Ministry of Youth and Sport Development to “provide comprehensive health insurance for all Nigerian footballers under the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS”.
Olarenwaju said the bill has made some progress and now pending before the House Committee on Legislative Compliance. “It is experiencing some delay because they have to look at it critically before enlisting it,” he added.
Olarenwaju is aware of the call for those with existing health conditions to avoid non-critical visits to the hospital but he believes Aluko should be able to access treatment soon. “I have been in touch with Aluko’s brother to check up on her health condition.
“It is true people like Aluko have to stay off the hospital during this time. It is a critical period indeed but she should be able to get her treatment soon”