Vast, one half of the Bracket music group, recently returned to Nigeria after undergoing treatment for blood cancer in the UK. He tells BAYO ADETU about his experience, and the lessons he has learnt
Vast, you’re welcome back to Nigeria after the blood cancer ailment that almost claimed your life. How did it happen?
I was feeling very sick, but couldn’t go for extensive treatment on time because had many shows and we had been paid up front. So I had to play all the shows, decided to round it off in 2012, so that my treatment can begin in 2013. Even from January, 2013, we still had concerts to play. We had to go to Australia, but then, I was feeling very sick. My family told me not to worry after the gigs, I will go for treatment. So, I was going to a hospital in Nigeria. But they couldn’t diagnose what was wrong with me. After some months, the dermatologist advised me travel abroad.
We first applied for normal UK visa but it was difficult. But luckily for us, we saw that they had priority visa. If you have travelled to America, Asian countries or to Australia, you can apply for priority visa, so we applied and within three to four days the visa came out and we went to UK. Luckily for us, we met a friend who said his brother is a doctor. He spoke with his brother and his brother referred us to a dermatologist there who gave us an appointment. They ran another test on me, and within two days, the result came out. That was when I was diagnosed of blood cancer, and the treatment began immediately. It was very difficult. I thought I would lose all the blood in my body but glory be to God. The first chemotherapy was very difficult because I started having problem due to loss of blood, so I had to go to the hospital again and I had blood transfusion.
During this period, what was on your mind?
I was praying. I didn’t have any hope, so I was just praying to God and I said I don’t know where these things will end. I don’t know what’s going to happen, so after the second treatment, I started feeling better. I started exercising, because the doctor said, at least you don’t have to stay and wait for the medical to work on its own, you have to exercise. It was shortly after the third chemotherapy that I was getting back to human being because I was dead already.
What did the doctor say was the cause of the blood cancer?
I asked the doctor, but he said ‘let’s leave the cause for now’. He said it’s just like when two black people make love and when the baby came out, it’s an albino. If such people ask you why they are delivered of albino, you won’t know how to explain. I felt relieved when he said this.
What gave you courage during this tough period?
When I was in the hospital, my partner was doing a very good job. He will call a producer, they will make a beat and send it to me. First of all, what kept me going was God because I saw myself dying but we got the finance to deal with the situation, which was the work of God. Besides, we were lucky to quickly meet a doctor who specialises in cancer and lungs treatment. Part of what gave me courage was my family, my partner, my C.E.O, and my manager. They were there for me, all of them travelled with me and made sure I did what I was supposed to do. They made sure I drank my juice, they made sure I took my medication, this is the second courage. When my hospital picture leaked, I was stronger because my fans prayed for me. Someone was even saying if this guy dies, I’m going to die, and I was like ‘oh my God, I have to survive.’ Also, the media encouraged me.
What lessons have you learnt from this?
First of all, I learnt that life is very precious. No matter what you do, no matter where ever you are, don’t look down on anybody because you don’t know who will help you tomorrow. Another thing is that you don’t have to be scared of death; live your normal life. At a point, I was very scared, that was when the sickness was weighing me down, but when I started getting all this courage, I stood up, I started exercising and I wasn’t scared anymore.
How did the symptoms start?
I was having chest pain from time to time. So we went to the doctor who gave me some drugs, but after some time, the pain will return. It got so bad in October last year –that was when I really fell sick. All the hospitals I visited in Nigeria tried their best, but I think it wasn’t enough because after three months, they could not diagnose anything. Some doctors will say they suspect tuberculosis, this one will tell us that I think I suspect growth. But when we got to London, I did a test, and within two days, the result came out showed that I had blood cancer.
Here in Nigeria, cancer patients are treated like animals because they lack the funds for treatment. To get cancer drug is very difficult and very costly. One chemotherapy costs up to N1.4 million, and you are going to have eight circles, so for them in Nigeria, before they even give you the treatment, you have to prove that you will be able to pay, so if you are not able to pay, they will just keep you in the hospital.
How do you think the situation can be improved in Nigeria?
That is why we have made up our minds to float a Cancer Foundation. We have spoken to some people about the foundation and they like the idea. At least every year, we should treat like 10 cancer patients. If we work on it and every Nigerian contributes and makes it work, before you know it, we can have a cancer free Nigeria. It is very possible. If you set up a cancer centre, there is a machine that once the machine scans you, it will detect it earlier. You can even kill it with normal drugs or antibiotics. Some people say cancer is a big man sickness, but now, it’s like malaria because you don’t know what causes it. Some people were asking if I smoke, but the truth is that I don’t. In the London hospital, smoking was the least thing that caused many people’s cancer.
If you have the life, spend it well, express your life and have fun. Well, I will say that whatever you believe in, just pray to that thing; if you believe in God, if you believe in whatsoever, if you believe in Allah, make sure you pray. In the past, I didn’t take prayers seriously, but now I’m a serious person. If you will have to stay with me, you will have to pray with me at least three times a day. It’s not my fault my brother, I just have to. Before, I just pray, but now I can say I have a conversation with God because of this. I’m sorry, I don’t use to do it before but now this thing has taught me to be stronger and living some kind of life which I cannot abandon.
Is there anything the doctors said you can’t do for now?
I had blood cancer, and you know I had a lot of chemotherapy; it’s always six but I had eight, that means I have plenty of things in my stomach now, so even if I get married now, I was told to use protection because if you make a baby, it might not be a complete baby. This is because of the medications. I still have to be protected for the next five months. I have to be careful of where I go to avoid contracting anything because the immune system is low for now. The doctors also said I should make sure I eat fresh food, fresh fruit, fresh fish, because the system needs something fresh, so I should avoid eating food that has been left for two days.