Dare to Live: Local mom who beat breast cancer raising awareness abroad

CHARLOTTE — Early detection for breast cancer can make a world of difference, but one young mother caught it late, and still managed to make a difference across the world.

You could say Akwi Anjoh is daring. She dared to live -- and it all started in December 2018 with a sharp pain.

“When I felt there was a lump,” Anjoh told Channel 9 “It was just sitting right there, but of course, I didn’t think cancer.”

She didn’t think it was cancer because she was only 33, had no family history, and didn’t even know anyone with cancer.

But when the pain wouldn’t go away, Anjoh went to Atrium Health, where she got the news: Stage Three triple-negative breast cancer.

“I knew I was going to die,” she said. “It was no doubt. I was like, ‘Wow, this is it.’ I had my daughter -- she was 22 months old. I was looking at her and I was like, ‘Wow, God.’”

But Anjoh’s doctor wanted her to focus -- not on the cancer, but on her mindset.

“She held my hand and said, ‘Your mind has to be strong. Be positive,’” Anjoh said.

Her doctor, Arielle Heeke, told Channel 9 she wanted Akwi to stay strong for her daughter.

“Not only does the patient have to kind of show up physically to endure the, you know, scalpel cuts and the chemotherapy going through the vein and the lost hair and the knowledge and all of these things -- but mentally, to still be there for yourself,” Heeke said.

Anjoh would need strength in the months to come as her beautiful head of hair disappeared and her smile faded as she went through 16 rounds of targeted chemotherapy.

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“So, I shared my story on Instagram, on Facebook, and it got a lot of traction -- a lot of people were writing to me, encouraging me, praying for me,” she said.

Anjoh is originally from Cameroon. She’s been living in the United States since 2012, and her story struck a chord with her friends back home -- but in a much different way.

“People from back home in Cameroon telling me they were going through the same thing I was going through, or they had been through the same thing, it struck me a lot because back home we don’t talk about cancer as much back home,” Anjoh told Channel 9.

It opened her eyes to how different a breast cancer diagnosis is depending on where you live. In Cameroon, treatment is difficult.

“Most women go to the hospital when it’s like Stage Four, when the breast is really exploding or there’s so much pain,” Anjoh said.

She made a decision that she wanted to help people back home. So, while she fought cancer, she started a new fight -- for the people of Cameroon.

“So, I decided to start a nonprofit to create awareness on breast cancer,” Anjoh said. “Get women to know about breast cancer, try to do their yearly breast exams.”

It’s called Dare to Live, and Anjoh is raising money, holding walks, and spreading the word that cancer is not a death sentence.

She wants more women in her home country to get mammograms and said she even hopes to build a cancer treatment center.

Four weeks ago, Anjoh found out her own cancer is gone -- but her mission will remain.

“Everything happens for a reason.”

>> CLICK HERE to visit Anjoh’s Dare to Live Facebook page.

(WATCH BELOW: What You Need To Know About Breast Cancer)