Passion bears fruit for on­col­o­gist

Dr Zuma who grad­u­ated last month af­ter com­plet­ing her train­ing would like to im­prove ser­vices of­fered in KZN

Afro Voice (KwaZulu Natal) - - Kwazulu-natal News Eastern Cape News - LIL­LIAN SELAPISA lil­lians@afro­tone.co.za

THE road to be­com­ing a spe­cial­ist has been long but worth it Dr Nok­wanda Zuma, 33, one of only two black African on­col­o­gists in KwaZulu-Na­tal, said.

Zuma said it was her passion for on­col­ogy that kept her go­ing and that she would like to im­prove the ser­vices presently of­fered in KwaZulu-Na­tal.

She grad­u­ated in May af­ter com­plet­ing her train­ing at Tyger­berg Hos­pi­tal in Cape Town and is now based at Ad­ding­ton Hos­pi­tal where she is in charge of ra­dio­ther­apy. She treated her first pa­tient last week.

“There is noth­ing as re­ward­ing as see­ing a pa­tient smile or see­ing them be­ing cured from can­cer,” she said.

Zuma said she de­cided in 2012 that she wanted to be an on­col­o­gist and a year later, her step-grand­mother, an ex-nurse from Eden­dale Hos­pi­tal, was di­ag­nosed with ma­lig­nant melanoma.

“On­col­ogy has al­ways been my des- tiny, but my step-grand­mother just took away any doubt of any­thing else. I was work­ing at Greys Hos­pi­tal on­col­ogy at the time. She chose to be treated in a pub­lic hos­pi­tal as op­posed to go­ing to a pri­vate hos­pi­tal be­cause her grand- daugh­ter was there. My fa­ther’s bi­o­log­i­cal mother was also di­ag­nosed with cer­vi­cal can­cer and treated at Ad­ding­ton Hos­pi­tal 20 years ago and she’s still alive. That’s why it’s im­por­tant for me to see Ad­ding­ton Hos­pi­tal’s on­col­ogy depart­ment func­tion­ing well,” she said.

“On­col­ogy is unique in that there’s the med­i­cal part and then the ra­dio­ther­apy part. As an on­col­o­gist, I have to tell a pa­tient that they have can­cer and the im­me­di­ate thought for them is that, ‘I’m go­ing to die’. It takes a doc­tor with em­pa­thy and soft skills to be able to re­as­sure them that, I will be there with you through­out this jour­ney and I will do my best, no mat­ter what the out­come.”

Zuma trained for nine years. She did her un­der­grad­u­ate stud­ies at the Uni­ver­sity of KwaZulu-Na­tal med­i­cal school which she com­pleted in five years. She then spent four years spe­cial­is­ing. She did her in­tern­ship at Prince Mshiyeni Memo­rial Hos­pi­tal and her com­mu­nity ser­vice at Krugers­dorp, West Rand health depart­ment.

“The hard­est part of my train­ing was when my aunt passed away two weeks be­fore my fi­nal ex­ams and I couldn’t go to the fu­neral in Dur­ban from Cape Town. I was cry­ing while study­ing,

“What helped me get this far is my per­se­ver­ance and know­ing that the goal is to be­come a spe­cial­ist. I had a com­mu­nity to serve and the only way to do that is by be­com­ing the best at what I do.”

PROGRESS: A 73-year-old can­cer pa­tient with, from left to right, physi­cist Thuso Ramoloko, on­col­o­gist Dr Nok­wanda Zuma, ra­dio­ther­apy staff Ma­lenta Solomon, Natasha Ma­haraj, Tere­sha Pil­lay, Thabisile Hlengwa and Phi­lani Maz­ibuko.

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