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Monday, June 24, 2024

Adenike Oyetunde – Lawal

The Untold Story of a Brilliant Amputee.

After an accident, she was diagnosed with bone cancer. And her right leg was amputated to save her life. But this remarkable woman overcame all odds to become a media personality, radio host, author, lawyer, social media influencer and life coach.

Read the beautiful story of this shining star. In her own words!

My name is Adenike Oyetunde Lawal, and I was born in Lagos State in the year 1986. Before I was born, my parents had been married for some years without a child. They prayed and visited several hospitals, and when it was time, God decided to send me into their lives. The day I was born was a day of joy as family and friends gathered to bless God for sending a beautiful princess into their home!

I was not born into a wealthy family, but my parents could provide the basic necessities of life. As the only child, I didn’t lack anything. When I was born, my father was working as a broadcast journalist while my mother was a trader. I grew up in Ikoyi and I was majorly influenced by my parents.

My dad is a Muslim, and he raised me with love. I was a “daddy’s girl” and even when I did wrong, he was merciful and tolerant. My mother was a Christian before she married my dad. However, as time went by, she converted to Islam. Unlike my dad, she was a disciplinarian. Although she loved me so much, she still gave me severe punishment whenever I did wrong. While growing up, I used to follow my dad to the mosque, but deep in my heart, I knew I wanted to practice Christianity.

My parents loved education. Their favourite slogan is “Go for it, do it, bag it, and get it”. I attended Rose Nursery and Primary School and Command Children’s School at Bonny Camp, Victoria Island, Lagos. My favourite teacher was my primary school principal, Mrs Mbabab. She was so lovely and she influenced me positively. Although I have a faint recollection of my childhood days, my mother told me that I was a very bright, strong, and determined child. I also loved to play a lot.

When I was in primary 4, I took the 15th position in the class, and guess what I did? I erased figure 1 and left figure 5. I wanted my parents to believe that I took the 5th position. I forgot that I couldn’t possibly be smarter than them. So, they found out and I was punished. I still remember the day I used our transport fare to buy roasted yams. You can call me a foodie, but I had to do it. Let me tell you how it happened. My neighbour and I were attending the same school. So, our parents would drop us off and pick us up from school. However, they were unavailable on that day, so they gave us transport fare to take a bus from Victoria Island to Ikoyi.

Everyone will probably face peer pressure in school, but you have to figure out the right thing to do and stick to your decision. While in school that day, my friends were buying snacks and roasted yams. The only money I had was our transport fare, and they encouraged me to spend it. I had no other choice but to buy roasted yams and ate them. When the school closed, we started trekking home. It wasn’t easy to walk under the sun from Victoria Island to Obalende.

The only luck we had was that my father’s friend used to have a pharmacy shop in Obalende. By the time we reached the shop, I was too tired to walk in. I had to rest for a few minutes first before entering the shop. Fortunately, Mr Felix was around, and he gave us the transport fare to board a vehicle to Ikoyi. Sometimes, I used to wonder what we would have done if we hadn’t found him that day. After that experience, I never misused my transport fare again.

I attended the prestigious Queens College Yaba, Lagos. Initially, I was a day student, but when we relocated from Ikoyi to Badagry, I started living in the hostel. Generally, I would say that I enjoyed the years I spent at that school. I made a few friends and was given some leadership positions. I was appointed as the noise maker prefect and acting food prefect. As an intelligent student, several teachers appointed me to be the prefect for their subjects.

During the vacation period, some of my classmates used to travel overseas, but my parents couldn’t afford such trips. I used to attend the summer camp organized by Ikoyi Baptist Church. I also went to amusement parks, carnivals, and parties, but I never went to a nightclub. So, after the holidays, I used to have a story to share with other students.

I studied Law at Olabisi Onabanjo University, in Ogun State. Living off campus was an opportunity for me to enjoy the freedom I had longed for. I met a lot of people, and I was able to see the world as it is. I wasn’t a party freak, but I had fun. I’m glad that I wasn’t influenced to use drugs or do anything that would have brought shame to my family.

After I graduated from the university, I didn’t want to practice Law, so I considered switching to broadcasting. When I told my family, they were very supportive. Although my mum wasn’t too sure if I had taken the right decision, she still gave her consent. My dad was a broadcast journalist till he retired, so I believed that the seed had been sown in me a long time ago. So, when the opportunity came, I grabbed it quickly.

I started as an intern and I made sure I learned everything I was taught. As an intern, I was allowed to work in the category I had chosen. Everything was fine. The same girl who came as an intern soon made progress and became a Radio Head. All that happened within a short time. Honestly, I had no obstacles when I started, but over the years, I have experienced several challenges, and some of them were because I’m an amputee.

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How did I lose my legs? That’s one question most people tend to ask when they meet me for the first time. Although not everyone says it verbally, I know they say it in their hearts. We all know that life is filled with twists and turns. No one can predict what tomorrow holds. We can only hope for the best. I was living a very normal life, then suddenly I was diagnosed with cancer. How did it happen? Where did it come from? Those were the rhetorical questions my family asked. At first, we refused to accept the diagnosis, so we had to visit several hospitals to confirm it. When it was confirmed to be positive, I cried my eyes out.

As the day went by, I started experiencing several symptoms. I don’t know the right words to describe them. Maybe I should say that they were ugly and so painful. I took different treatments, and my family spent a fortune. While I was praying for my life to return to normal, I heard the doctor say, “I’m sorry, but we have to cut off your leg.” Oh my goodness! I couldn’t believe it. I started imagining so many things. Why should a beautiful girl like me lose one of her legs? Would people still love me in this condition? How would I cope? While those questions were racing through my mind, I could feel hot tears flowing down my cheek.

I thank God for my mother. She told me not to worry because everything would be fine. I still remember the day I had the surgery. I told myself that everything that was happening was a dream. Yes! I wanted it to be a dream so I would wake up to my normal life. But I guess I was wrong. After the surgery, I woke up to a new reality. It took me a while to accept it, but when I did, I became free.

To be honest, life as an amputee is hard, but I have reached that stage where I tell myself that the challenges I go through are not because I’m an amputee. Every human being faces challenges, so why should I link mine to my disability? The reason I do that is to prevent myself from falling into depression. Yes! It wasn’t easy to build this new mindset, so I’m glad that I did. Another thing I did was forget the past. Let me say that I buried the cancer treatment and amputation experiences somewhere in my heart. A place where it doesn’t hurt anymore. I did all that to enjoy my present life while hoping for a better future.

There is always a reason for everything that happens to you. I dealt with anxiety, depression, and other obstacles before getting to this point, and that’s why I call myself a survivor. I’m glad to announce to you that I’ve been healed. After I got my healing, I had a strong urge to reach out to other amputees, and listen to their stories. I understand what they might be going through because I have been there.

My journey as an amputee motivated the birth of Amputee United Initiative (AUI), a non-profit organization. I just wanted to create a place where amputees could come and encourage each other. Who said amputees can’t live a happy life? My goal was to create a haven where people could interact with each other and be happy. To be honest, I didn’t experience any challenges while setting up Amputee United Initiative because I have a very supportive board of directors. My team really worked hard during the time that we were active in service. We had different success stories that gladdened my heart, and I am very certain that when activities pick up again from where we stopped, there will be more testimonies.

I also want to say that I’m an active member of the Irede Foundation. While the Amputee United Initiative is like my heart, Irede Foundation is my lungs. I’m not the founder, but I am a member of the advisory board. I met Crystal Chigbu a few years ago when she began this journey as a mother with a child that was born without a shinbone. Her foundation provides children under the age of 18 with walking aids and prostheses. We became affiliated because we share the same goal. The truth is that I’m so attached to Irede Foundation, and that’s why most people don’t know that I’m not the one running it. However, the most important thing is the impact we make on the lives of people. At the moment, our affiliation is still intact and I hope it extends for many years to come.

Winning an award is always a special moment. When I started AUI, winning an award was not one of my objectives. However, when I started receiving them, I felt happy that people appreciate what I do. I consider it a privilege to be honored. Recently, I got the Lagos City Need Award and I have been recognized by different bodies. Some examples are the Leading Ladies of Africa Award, Richer Woman International, 100 Most Influential, 100 Most Impactful, etc. I believe that while a man can offer awards and recognition, God gives you the reward, and I hope to receive my reward in heaven.

If I want something, I go for it. I don’t like depending on people to help me. There was a day I went to a recreational park and I wanted to join a particular ride. Unfortunately, I was told that I couldn’t enter it because of my disability. Do you know that I wasn’t offended? Yes! I have moved past that stage where I feel sad. I believed that I was declined entry to the ride, for safety reasons, and safety comes first. Also, I have seen people gossiping about my condition just to hurt me, but instead of getting offended, I ignore them.

Every leader is expected to practice the behaviour they want others to follow. While working as a Radio Head, I was positively influenced by the late George Omagbemi. My role models in broadcasting are Uncle Bisi Olatilo, Uncle Sunny Irabor, and Gbemi. I was also influenced by the late Dan Foster and the late Chaz B. When you come to our studio, you will enjoy yourself because there’s never a dull moment there.

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Time is beyond our control. Everyone has 24 hours in a day and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we live our lives. Right now, I have many activities on my work schedule. Managing a non-profit organization and working as a radio presenter wasn’t easy. I had to drop a lot of things to take up the role of a Senior Special Assistant, and broadcasting was one of them. To be honest, this position has been challenging, but I’m doing my best. Considering all the work I do daily, I think retirement would be an exciting experience for me. I’m planning on saving a lot of money for retirement, and when the time comes, I would love to travel around the world to talk about disability.

While growing up, I have always maintained a cordial relationship with the opposite sex. When I was in primary school, some children were pairing themselves as couples, but I didn’t join them. In secondary school, most of the girls had boyfriends, and they would talk about their affairs and flaunt the gifts they got from them. However, I didn’t get into a romantic relationship because my mother clearly warned against it. I waited till I grew up before I had a boyfriend.

If you have read my story to this point, I guess you might be wondering if I’m married. Yes! I am married to Mr Sheriff Deen Akinyele Lawal. He is one of the best gifts life gave to me. He is the kindest person I have ever met. He supports my vision, and I can’t thank him enough for all he has done for me. We do not have a child yet, but I’m really planning on how we will manage our time when the kids start coming. One of us will be required to spend more time at home. It might be him for a while or me. It all depends on our engagements at that time. However, we are praying that God will give us wisdom on how to run things when the children are here.

Do you know that our prime purpose in life is to be useful, honourable, compassionate, and to help others? My purpose on earth is to bring liberty, hope, and a smile to the faces of people I meet. Since I discovered my purpose, I have been living a fulfilling life. My faith in Christ played a key role in my life. I found my true identity, which is to be the light of the world. When you look at me very well, you will see a woman that God has blessed, and I’m grateful for His grace upon my family.

I enjoy reading books, pressing my phone, and watching documentaries. Autobiographies are one of my favourites. I read a minimum of three books every month, and I’m on my 18th book for 2022. So far, my best book of the year is the book by Chizoba Akunyili on the life of Dora Akunyili. I still have about 13 books left in my house. I also want to start reading e-books.

I believe that every human being has a talent deposited in them, irrespective of their age, location, gender, or disability. So, I would advise all disabled people not to let their disability define their life. It is a waste of time to be angry about your condition. You have to choose either to live a bitter or better life. Since you can’t change it, why not accept it? If you’ve chosen to be bitter, people won’t have time for you.

Your success and happiness lie in you, not in your physical disability. Discover your purpose in life and live it out. Don’t isolate yourself because of your condition. Don’t die in silence. Whenever you need help, reach out and you will get help. They say that iron sharpeneth iron, so look for people that have similar experiences and connect with them. You will be encouraged by their stories.

I met an amputee that told me she doesn’t go to public places like malls, cinemas, restaurants, etc. When I asked her the reason, she said that people always look at her and that makes her uncomfortable. When she said that, I laughed. I love it when people gaze at me. If I discover that you have been looking at me for so long, I will also look straight into your eyes and smile. Do you know that such a smile provides the answers to all their unasked questions? If you are confident in who you are, people will love and respect you.

My dear friend, there is nothing in this world that is worth dying for, both literally and figuratively. So, whenever you feel that your condition is worse, remember that nobody has it all figured out. Every one of us is just pushing through, hoping that everything falls into place. So, just do what you have to do, and if you feel exhausted, get a good sleep. You can try again when you wake up. I wish you the best on this journey through life.

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