Thank You for Your Interest in Nutifafa Shelter
My life is a miracle. I can’t explain why or understand that miracle, but I am grateful. My gratitude began our mission. I founded this organization to give hope to families who endure the difficulties my family faced. I want to help those families withstand the challenges of illness; give hope to orphans who lost parents to cancer, and contribute to society’s efforts to fight that disease. Let me tell you my story, please.
I am Bella Attisso. I survived stage 3 breast cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes. Many people do not survive.
As an accountant. I know about facts, numbers, and reality. I wasn’t born in the United States, and when I joined my family here I wanted to earn a CPA certificate and enjoy a rewarding career. I was in the middle of that path, learning on a scholarship. Life was good. I was caring for my family, doing my work, enjoying my life. One day my husband said, “Are you gaining weight, Bella?” He was looking at me carefully, puzzled.
I replied, “Yes, I suppose I need to be more active.”
“I think one of your breasts is getting bigger,” he told me.
I felt healthy; had no symptoms, no signs. I was fine, but my husband insisted I get checked. That was early 2017, and the doctor assured me I was well. She said I was too young for a mammogram but suggested I cut back on caffeine after I told her I loved coffee and chocolate. She said, “For some women, too much caffeine causes the lymph nodes to enlarge. Don’t worry.”
We went home. A year later, I couldn’t deny that my breast was growing and changing. I saw fear and worry on my husband’s face. I couldn’t remain untreated.
My children could not focus on their studies. My husband insisted on a biopsy, and the doctor found the tumor — bigger than half an apple. “What if we had not insisted?” my husband wanted to know. My family begged everyone to pray for their dying mother. Fear overwhelmed me. My faith wavered. My treatment started with 12 sessions of chemotherapy, a mastectomy, and 25 radiotherapy sessions.
Life was a frightening journey. My husband worked three jobs. Friends, family, and our community helped us. Soon, we had no time for enjoyable activities, my children had nothing to make their lives feel normal. But at Christmas, a family member rang our doorbell bell and started bringing in packages. Clothes. Shoes. Electronic things for the children. Food. The living room was filled with packages. Family and my children’s school made it happen. I was deeply touched.
I opened my eyes one morning, and my whole self was filled with the thought that I needed to help others. I didn’t take it to heart. One night, my husband and I and our children went to pray. My daughter pulled my sleeve and said, “I heard someone speak to me.” A voice seemed to say to me, too, “You must help people.”
With treatment effects like loss of my hair, loss of appetite, fatigue, weakness in the body, diarrhea, nausea, black nails, and infections, I could only think about staying alive. I was in and out of emergency services. My white blood cell dropped to almost nothing. Emergency services transferred me to a cancer unit three hours away by ambulance. For the first time, my husband shed tears. Thanks to God, I survived that trip, but the day I had my mastectomy surgery, I nearly died. I was weak and unconscious and awoke to doctors, nurses, and machines around me and a big open wound in my breast. I was alive! God sent me help and support, and I was grateful even though I was grieving.
I was not happy in those days. I was mad at myself, at God, and at the world. I asked God why with all our prayers and all our faith, my health was not getting better. God provided me a Bible verse: Isaiah 58:7-14. At that moment, I fully understood that I should help others, but how? I couldn’t work. We could hardly provide for ourselves. Still, my husband and I were compelled to act.
When we received a check to help with groceries we had the answer. I remembered some children in Africa who had lost their parents, and I decided to find them. After several months of searching, we got lucky, and we got in contact. We were so happy to pay their school fees and buy clothes and shoes. As I made plans to begin my radiation treatments, we kept sending whatever we could to those children in the village.
The doctor’s prognosis for my tumor was not good, but I had an opportunity for an experimental treatment. I did not believe in miracles before. I believed in facts and reality. But soon, lab results showed my body responding unexpectedly. The doctors had said 30 minutes of treatment 5 days a week. But after the first week, the lab showed so much improvement that they cut it to 15 minutes. Soon, it was down to ten minutes. Within five weeks, radiation showed incredible improvement. Most people in my situation developed more tumors. I did not. Now I was healing. That shifted my life perspective.
Bella and her family had limited resources, but God was faithful in guiding and helping them. Believing with all their hearts that they were meant to help others, they founded the shelter in 2019 and gathered good people into their plan. In 2022, a Clemson University football coach established a new organization, TigerImpact, based on Bella’s personal story. It supports student-athletes in the U.S. Today, N Shelter helps children whose parents are impacted by cancer. They provide families with school supplies and educational tools to empower and strengthen the education of children in need. They enjoy making hospital visits and praying in fellowship through N Shelter’s cancer care ministry.
Founder Bella Attisso received cancer care leadership training through Our Journey of Hope. From that, N Shelter’s cancer care ministry grew. This all-volunteer mission offers practical support for families overwhelmed by cancer. Some of their assistance is by way of
Parents and families have to focus on the fight against cancer. N Shelter works to reduce family stress so the family is enabled to recover and the children experience a more normal life. When a patient is stressed and hopeless, treatment is less effective. If they are empowered and supported, they can feel happiness and joy around them and focus on recovery. Cancer scares everyone, even the doctors; Nutifafa Shelter makes life better and healing more effective.
“This is not a business. This is a mission based on my experience, and my feelings during my recovery. I remember how hard it was for my children, so we are focused on children, the leaders of tomorrow. We empower kids so they can focus on their education and enjoy life as we all should be able to do,” says Bella Attisso
Nutifafa means peace in Bella’s native language Ewe, spoken by 20 million people in West Africa. Shelter refers to the figurative roof the mission builds to create a peaceful environment for kids whose parents are battling cancer or those who have lost a parent to cancer. N Shelter is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit with ten volunteers and no paid employees. They help ten or more families annually and stay connected as long as needed. All expenses and programs are funded through the generosity of others. Please help if you are able. Akpe na wò, thank you.
N Shelter supports its ongoing Africa-based cancer care mission through sales of goods in the online store. Please browse for a few minutes and consider a purchase. These lovely things can remind you constantly of your warm heart.
We are Christians, we are cancer survivors, we are chaplains and we are educators. We love dedicating our time to serve our community. Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.