Upon finishing her secondary school in 2014, Tiffany was determined to pursue a career in media and become an award-winning journalist. But her dream didn’t match her reality. Her father’s salary as a truck driver was not enough to take care of her and her three siblings. She knew that her dreams of going to university would have to wait due to lack of finances, but despite having spent close to a year with no sign of ever going to university, she never lost hope of one day becoming a successful journalist.
In July 2016, Tiffany’s life took a shocking turn. At age 18, her doctor found a lump that was feared to be breast cancer. “At that moment I lost hope. There was no need to dream. I was not going to be a journalist. I was going to die.” Soon most people in her community heard the news. Some stigmatized and other sympathized with her; most people did not understand how someone so young could contract such a disease.
“My biopsy results were not yet out to confirm whether the lump in my breast was cancerous or not, but we all concluded it was as I soon started showing symptoms. I drastically lost weight and soon I had terrible migraines to the extent that I couldn’t even read. I gave up on school and journalism. What was the point of hoping to get into school when I knew I was going to die? The Doctor said I had delayed going to the hospital and feared that it may have spread. People tried to encourage me, but there was no hope left in me. I was going to die.”
Then a phone call changed everything again. A DREAMS initiative had started in her community, and she was invited by a nun to be part of the program. “I was hesitant to attend. I shunned most gathering but decided to go anyway. I did not expect the first session to be that powerful. Our facilitator shared her life story with us, and she focused mostly on the letter R in DREAMS—‘Resilience’—life knocking us down but getting back up. At the end of the session I broke down and cried. She had said what I needed to hear. I was more than determined to get my life back. I started attending every DREAMS session, and not only was I learning a lot from the mentoring sessions, but I was also regaining the hope I had lost and I was beginning to dream again. To me DREAMS is like an answered prayer. It helped me find hope in life, and I was given a rare opportunity to go live on the radio during a field trip and talk about the program. I was a journalist for a day.”
Tiffany’s life took another turn in July 2017 when her biopsy results came back as non-cancerous, although the doctor still recommended removing the growth. “I feel like I have wasted so much of my life thinking of my death, and I let negativity overshadow my dreams,” she shared. “But like the R in DREAMS, I am ready to take charge of my life. On July 24, 2017 I am undergoing surgery to have the growth removed, and then I need to find a job or scholarship to get me through University. This will enable me to take care of my family. At 19, my future looks bright. If I passed through all that and survived, I can survive anything because I am the Resilient.”