“Never give up!”

And five more lessons learnt from breast can­cer

Glamour (South Africa) - - Contents -

khany­isa Ndyoko was 43 when she dis­cov­ered a small, hard lump in her breast while get­ting ready one morn­ing. “Co­in­ci­den­tally, I’d learnt about self-ex­am­i­na­tions just a month ear­lier at a health sem­i­nar at work, and al­though I wasn’t overly con­cerned about what I’d found, I’ve al­ways been re­spon­si­ble about my well­be­ing, so I made an ap­point­ment to see my doc­tor,” she re­calls.

“Go­ing for a mam­mo­gram seemed rou­tine, but when I saw the con­cern on the nurse’s face as she looked at the test screen, anx­i­ety crept up on me. I tried not to think of the worst-case sce­nario while they did the ul­tra­sound and then the ex­cru­ci­at­ing biopsy, but the night­mar­ish news came soon af­ter that: I had breast can­cer.

“The di­ag­no­sis ter­ri­fied me. Would my beloved chil­dren Lukhany­iso, 20, and Lilitha, 11, lose their only par­ent? To my eter­nal grat­i­tude, I made it through, thanks to the sup­port of loved ones, col­leagues, amaz­ing doc­tors and prayers. Now can­cer-free, it brings me joy to share my story and if I’m able

to en­cour­age just one per­son, that will mean ev­ery­thing to me.”

1 Don’t lose faith

My first chemo treat­ment left me feel­ing nau­seous and ex­hausted. And, as if that wasn’t enough, the lease for my apart­ment wasn’t re­newed. It was win­ter, I had two kids to take care of and now I was los­ing the sanc­tu­ary where I’d watched them grow up. The rooms echoed with me­mories of my fam­ily and friends, and the spe­cial moments we had shared there.

Des­per­ate and weep­ing, I called my pas­tor’s wife, and she told me the Bib­li­cal story of Job who lost ev­ery­thing and had his faith tested. In that mo­ment I felt like Job, as I faced ob­sta­cle af­ter ob­sta­cle. Then I re­alised this was my chance to show God that my faith was big­ger than any pain or loss.

I kept pray­ing, and I was re­warded when I found a new home through a friend at church. The three-bed­room house where we now live is per­fect for my fam­ily and we are mak­ing won­der­ful new me­mories!

2 Stay strong for oth­ers

I was ter­ri­fied to share the news with my par­ents. My old­est sis­ter died in an ac­ci­dent in 2005, and my youngest sis­ter passed away ex­actly a year be­fore my di­ag­no­sis. Would this be the straw that fi­nally broke them?

We sat down to talk, and I in­sisted that, thanks to early de­tec­tion, I would be fine. In the time that fol­lowed, I didn’t al­low my­self to show my par­ents or chil­dren the ex­tent of my phys­i­cal and emo­tional pain, and I dis­cov­ered some­thing amaz­ing: keep­ing it to­gether for other peo­ple helped me keep it to­gether for my­self.

3 You are not your looks

I prayed that I would not lose my hair, but three weeks af­ter the first chemo treat­ment, my dread­locks be­gan to fall out. In the grand scheme of things, that loss might have seemed small, but my dreads were my pride and af­ter hold­ing back the tears for so very long, I fi­nally gave in to weep­ing.

My sis­ter, Fundiswa, took me to the barber to get my head shaved. To my dis­may, I didn’t re­sem­ble the me­dia star Pabi Moloi! But with time, I learnt to en­joy col­lect­ing fab­u­lous head­scarves and to keep a red lip­stick on hand, so I could re­tain some glam­our in my life. More im­por­tantly, I saw that we are all so much more than how we look.

4 Lis­ten to your body

I’m a very ac­tive per­son, so it was tough to lie in bed, to sleep and to do noth­ing, but that was what my body needed, and I lis­tened, whether that meant rest­ing, eat­ing prop­erly or ex­er­cis­ing the right way. As a re­sult, I was very lucky as I didn’t ex­pe­ri­ence side ef­fects to the ex­tent that I’d feared.

5 You are not alone

My mother, Nobanzi, sis­ter, Fundiswa, and brother, Sim­phiwe, were there for my first chemo ses­sion, and Fundiswa came to ev­ery sin­gle treat­ment af­ter that. She also of­fered what­ever I needed, from mak­ing sure my kids were OK and­cook­ing for us when I could barely lift my arms to giv­ing me reg­u­lar pep talks.

Then there were the emails from my col­leagues and the calls from my pas­tor. At first, pain made me feel iso­lated, but I soon re­alised I was not alone at all.

6 You have a unique pur­pose in the world

Two years since my di­ag­no­sis, I’m thank­ful to be healthy and alive. More than that, I be­lieve that I was saved for a pur­pose. I can in­spire other women by show­ing them that breast can­cer is not a death sen­tence. My be­lief in this di­vine plan is even stronger thanks to an­other great con­nec­tion: at the time when I fell ill I was a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Avon, a com­pany which is known for its breast can­cer aware­ness drives. Now, that very com­pany is giv­ing me a plat­form to share my story. What­ever your strug­gle, it can be over­come!

“What­ever your strug­gle, it can be over­come.”

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