From acting, Juliet Aguwa’s attention shifts to cancer awareness for women. Adewole Ajao caught up with the US-based former actress during her recent trip to the country
From playing roles on popular TV serials Memorial Hospital and Twist Away, fate brandished a fresh row of cards that has gradually set Juliet Aguwa on a new path she revealed during her recent trip to Lagos. Miles away from her US base, she revealed a current breast cancer awareness campaign that attracted support from the Imo State Government recently, after an invitation from the state’s first lady Mrs Nkechi Okorocha, women in the eastern state’s local government areas were beneficiaries.
Starting her Courage to Dare Foundation was the last thing on the mind of the University of Port Harcourt graduate. After her degree in theatre arts a subsequent on that made her a medical case manager, her attention was tending towards other areas of life until a 2008 experience with cancer altered the symmetry of her thoughts. Fortunately the dark period armed her with a new drive that has powered her current assignment.
“We visited about four villages in Imo state and brought home some educational materials we shared with the women,” she said of the initiative. “We also educated them on early detection and empowered them on how to initiate support groups to help those with it. Being a survivor, it was what helped me overcome breast cancer. It was a positive light.”
Like all mothers, her kids became her primary concern when the aggressive nature of her ailment was revealed to her by doctors. At that point she had to worry about the reality of losing herself to the cancer and the kids ending up without her. Through this dark period, her better half and members of her family kicked in with support. For her, it offered some consolation.
“I went through the pains of being a mother, watching my kids and asking who would raise them better than I could, in that note, having a husband who was supportive and helping work through the pains,” she added. “My sisters and brothers came to my rescue and where there to support me.”
Apart from the heartache over the flipsides of her affliction, the intensity of the numerous treatments she was subjected to have not left her. Being subjected to chemotherapy and other cures was not a beach cruise. But it raised her awareness on the needs of those suffering from the affliction.
“It was intense and I had six months of chemotherapy. It was aggressive and I went through the pain of losing hair and memory. Having to go through another six months of radiation and my body having different colours was a painful thing,” she recalled. “Giving back and enlightening people is more rewarding than anything else.”
She has not completely forgotten about her time on talk shows. Acting stints and tutelage under the likes of Danladi Bako and Frank Olize were interesting periods for Aguwa, who said an acting role on stage for her alma mater was in the offing. She dropped this hint before saying the door was not completely closed on a TV return.
“I think once an actress, you are always one and I think Nigeria has done a great job in terms of the film industry. I have always been a strong critic of my work and others. I like movies that tell a story and mean something.”
Her only worry about the fledging movie industry lies in the inability of some artistes to separate their fictional roles from reality. For her, this scenario has done more harm than good in the case of stars who attempted it. There were also other problems.
“I have seen a few of them in Nigerian movies and I wish the acting industry would recognise the whole idea behind it. It is make believe so the lives we live on stage should not be our personal lives. I see most acting trying to portray the western world but we can be appreciated outside and need to embrace our culture. In Bollywood, not everything is put on camera but you understand. I wish a lot of that could apply to us.”
She seems bent on following her advice with a docu-drama she said would soon be released. This serial on the role of women in building the nation could be the first in several years she is hoping to churn out during her campaign for early breast cancer awareness.
“With the work we have done in Nigeria over the years, we are working on a docu-drama and looking for investors to work with: stories of African women, how they struggle with it and how their families react. We have a team of producers and directors who will be a part. It will be shown around the world,” Aguwa enthused.