Under Our Skin, Too;Breast Cancer Around the World- For Ahou

*Painting by Eric Larkin

My daughter was born on a Thursday, in Cote d’Ivoire into the Akan group of the Baoule.  Though my husband and I had already decided to name our first child Sojourner after the indomitable Sojourner Truth, we had decided her middle name would be the traditional name designated for the day of the week in which she would be born.  There was one caveat; if she was born on a Thursday, my husband was insistence that Sojourner would not be given the name of Ahou.  


For both us, names carried powers and omens of their own and my husband’s mother, who was named Ahou, had had such a difficult life.  And her ending was especially full of torment because she died of untreated breast cancer. My husband had witnessed her agonizing exit out of this world.  He did not want his daughter burdened by his mother’s history.


Our daughter was born on a Thursday. And though Sojourner does not carry the name of her paternal grandmother-Ahou-, she is every bit the feisty, proud person that her maymay was. Ahou, Ahou, Ahou…


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I invite my readers to consider women in other parts of the world and uninsured women here,in the United States, who have no access or very limited access to healthcare
that could save their lives.


I wrote the poem-Homesick Spirits- in memory of my mother-in-law and those traditional healers who, in the face of unfamiliar and rapacious challenges like breast cancer, are undeterred in their search for a cure. You may read this poem on my blog-Eyes on the World: 





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