Ghanaian Sports journalist-Christopher Opoku died in the United Kingdom yesterday–after a long battle with cancer of the rectum.
His death came several years after he disclosed and sort of believed he had won the battle against cancer–following a complex procedure.
In 2013, he wrote a long but touching post, explaining to the world what he had been fighting and how happy he’s to have won it.
It’s sad he didn’t live for long, as everyone expected.
Read that long piece below…
“Because of you Lord I am alive today
Many times I have asked myself whether I should write this piece or not, but in the end, I want to thank God for His goodness in my life. I am not ashamed to declare that, as imperfect as I am, I am a Christian and I believe in the fact that Jesus Christ died to give us access to eternal life. If you think He is not in the miracle business any more, you couldn?t be more wrong. I am deliberately telling you my story so that you know that He is a miracle working God and in so doing, believe in Him.
Today September 23 2013 is exactly 52 weeks to the day (one year) since I was operated upon at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi. I remember that day as if it was yesterday, as I was dressed and asked to sit in a wheelchair. Two nurses took me to the theatre and were constantly telling me not to get worried. Since it was going to be my first surgery, I was nervous, but the medical team led by Dr. Joseph Yorke, did their best to keep me relaxed and after a while, I blacked out so that the operation could begin.
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 for a little over a week. It was during the time of the 2012 London Olympics. Whilst there, I contacted my employers and asked if we could renew the contract. Eventually I had to wait and return to Ghana for talks on that score to continue.
Whilst I was 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.
In the meantime, my employers had informed me that due to budgetary constraints, I would have to sign a new contract on reduced terms. I had a series of meetings with them during which I asked them to hold on for a few months before reducing my salary, which they graciously agreed to.
I underwent the colonoscopy on a Friday and I was asked to come back to the hospital on a Monday. If I remember correctly, the day I underwent the colonoscopy was the day King Faisal defeated Hasaacas 2-0 in a Middle League playoff replay in Tema to return to Ghana?s top flight. As a member of the Division One League Board, I was present for the first game the previous day when the game finished 0-0. Little did I know that I wasn?t to visit a football pitch for a long time to come.
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.
I do not recall how I drove home that morning, but I got home and broke the news to my wife. I then called my sister, Dr. Constance Opoku who works at the Tamale Teaching Hospital, my mum, Miss Akoss Ofori Mensah and my parents in Kumasi and informed them of what was happening. My parents introduced me to two people who have since become lifelong friends in Elder Sammy Bugyei and Pastor Anuertey and who really invested time and prayer into my situation. I also informed my pastor, Minister Mike Turkson who also prayed with me.
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 is where I met Dr. Joseph Yorke for the first time.
My sister later told me that after the colonoscopy, Dr. Yorke told her that if he had his way, he would have operated on me there and then.
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.
We then had a family meeting to discuss the issue because to be very honest, I didn?t want the surgery. I hold my hands up and say that I was wrong to be reluctant because that could easily have cost me my life. After some discussions, I called my father and told him that I had to undergo the surgery. I remember that night. It was a Wednesday night when my wife and I met with my sister and my mum in Dzorwulu to discuss the issue.
Since my sister and I were to leave for Kumasi the next morning, I drove my wife and kids to see my immediate boss that same night. I told Fadi Fattal all that had happened and informed him that I was going to undergo surgery. He wished me well and saw us off.
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.
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. I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to my sister, Dr. Constance Opoku, who virtually organized everything for me. I owe her my life and that is why my third daughter is named after her.
I have said before that I wouldn?t exchange Kwadwo Oppong Opoku for any father in the world and he was there for me in my time of crisis. From the moment I arrived in Kumasi through the operation to my recuperation, my father stood by me every step of the way. He might be in his early seventies, but the strength he used to come to the hospital twice every single day for the time that I was there, not to mention the endless trips he took to town to buy the drugs I required could only have come from God. He availed himself and he will always be the best father a son will ever know. (I know I am being biased). If I can be as good a father to my children the way he has been to me, then I would be a very proud man and I mean it.
My mum, Miss Akoss Ofori Mensah was also a huge rock for me to lean on during this dark period. She travelled to Kumasi constantly to check up on me and financially she did so much. I lost my mum when I was almost 15 and as my late mum?s elder sister, she has been there for my sister and myself ever since. I am forever indebted to her. I am currently working on a football project for her and I hope to do my very best to make her proud.
My other mum, Mrs Winifred Opoku was also very very supportive when I was discharged. She saw to my every need whilst I was recuperating at home and I also owe her a huge debt of gratitude.
At the hospital I have to make special mention of Dr. Joseph Yorke and his medical team. I remember that Dr. Seth Hassan and Dr. Senyo Norgbey were members of the team that operated on me and God used them all mightily to fight my battle for me, not to mention the nurses who ministered to me whilst I was on admission.
In fact the list of names is endless but I still have to mention my uncle and former Kumasi City council Chairman, Lt. Col. (rtd) Frederick Opuni Mensah who, together with his sons were a huge support in all manner of ways during and after my illness.
My mum?s younger sister, Mrs Elizabeth Nnuro also visited with her entire family and it was during those times that I realized how God works.
He uses people to fight our cases for us and perform miracles in our lives, but we don?t seem to realize it.
On a professional level, I have to thank the Division One League Board for fully supporting me during my illness, with Samuel Otoo visiting me a few times whilst I was recuperating.
My colleague and friend Michael Katahena actually flew down to Kumasi to visit me in hospital, whilst my close friend Nana Kwaku Agyemang kept in touch and was constantly calling my wife to comfort her.
Also, one of my mentors who is also a lifelong friend, Moses Foh Amoaning was always in touch and kept praying with me. My deputy editor at footy-ghana.com, Stephen Amos also provided massive support during the difficult times.
I also had my father?s very good friend and the former Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy at KNUST, Professor J.K. Kwakye constantly looking in on me and in fact, thanks to him the Chief Pharmacist at KATH, Mr. Mensah was very helpful to my father.
I will also always remember the surprise visit to my hospital bed by the General Overseer of KICC Ghana, Rev. Andy Yawson. Despite the fact that I had only begun worshipping at the Nungua branch of the church a couple of months earlier, my branch pastor Minister Turkson was not only praying with me, he had informed Rev. Yawson as well. Rev. Yawson prayed with me on my hospital bed and I remember feeling very happy when he left. It was confirmation of God?s love for me despite my many imperfections and it is indeed symptomatic of God?s perfect love for us all, no matter who or what we are. I encourage you to continue serving Him because He will always see you through the toughest of times.
I also had Prophet Isaac Ahorlu and Pastor Anuertey amongst a host of men of God who never stopped praying for me.
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, during which the incision on my belly as a result of the surgery was dressed every single day. 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 (A miracle in itself, because it meant that apart from the invisible cells that needed to be dealt with, the surgery was an unqualified success).
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 ten weeks previously. My third daughter had been born by then and it is the first time that I wasn?t present for the birth of my child. (I had been present for the birth of Dora, now six years old and Christabel, now three years old.)
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 ten 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.
I stayed in Accra until after the elections and returned to Kumasi to undergo my second chemo cycle. For some reasons it was postponed and so I returned to Accra just before Christmas. That is when I was able to go to church for the first time. Needless to say, the joy at meeting Minister Turkson and other church members was a sight to behold.
I went back to Kumasi on New Year ?s Day and eventually had my second chemo cycle.
As you all know, I had started an internet project on my own footy-Ghana.com but my deputy editor, Stephen Amos had to step in and take charge during my illness. He was also incredibly supportive and so it was easy for me to start writing again after the New Year.
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. I would like to thank OMP and Metro TV for giving me the opportunities I had over the last three years, but it was time to move on.
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. Soon, I was given a four page spread to produce sports news every week and that is what I still do now.
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. So that is how it all started.
Gradually my strength was returning and I was writing regularly again. Then my mum also gave me the football project and that is what I am currently working on.
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. Through scores of short term jobs I have had, I have been able to take care of my family and I can boldly testify that because my tithing has improved, God is opening all kinds of doors. So please endeavor to pay your tithes regularly and God will open the store houses of heaven to bless you.
I also have to express my immense thanks to the manager of GTV Sports George Lomotey and his staff for showing such belief in me and handing me opportunities. Thanks to them I returned to the commentary position during Asante Kotoko?s first CAF Champions League match this season. I have also had the privilege of working on Ghana?s last two home World Cup qualifiers against Sudan and Zambia.
I cannot leave out the staff of Multi TV Sports, as well as the Happy FM Sports Crew who has also given me opportunities to share my opinions on national football issues.
Anyway, after my chemo sessions, I was asked by my doctor, Dr. Osei Bonsu to undergo radiotherapy at the Sweden Ghana Medical Centre (SGMC). So for five continuous weeks, I drove every weekday to Nmai Djorn to undergo the therapy treatments. That was when I was hosting the FIFA Confederations Cup on GTV. So I would do the treatments in the morning and go to GTV in the evenings. I thank God that I did not have a single accident over those five weeks.
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. Of course I have taken advice from a dietician recommended by my sister and my eating habits have changed. I will probably write another piece on what foods to take and avoid so that you will also avoid the crisis I went through.
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. If I am alive today, it is because of Him and you can see the mighty army of people He raised to fight on my behalf.
I will end this piece by writing down the lines of a song I love so much, by Rev. Hezekiah Walker, ?Faithful, Faithful is our God, I am reaping the Harvest God Promised me; take back what the Devil stole from me and I rejoice today; for I shall recover it all.?
Join me in thanking God because a year ago, I wasn?t sure I would survive but He preserved me and saved my life. Give your life to Him for He is waiting for you with His arms wide open.”