How she beat cancer
October is cancer awareness month and survivor Leah Lehobye is teaching those around her about the disease
LEAH Lehobye from Teressa Park, north of Pretoria, never thought she would one day be told the words, “You have cancer.” She has been a teacher for over 20 years and her day to day life includes teaching her learners at Motshegofadiwa Primary School and going home to take care of her husband and children.
HER BIGGEST NIGHTMARE COMES TRUE
The 49-year-old mother of two says she never dreamt she would be diagnosed with cancer.
When Leah woke up one morning in 2009, she knew something wasn’t right.
“My health had been deteriorating and I was very weak,” she says.
Her husband then rushed her to a local doctor, who referred them to a hospital for full assessment. After a full scan at the hospital, the doctor instructed Leah to come back the following day with at least two other family members to give her a full report on her condition. At that moment, Leah had a strong feeling that the report would not be a positive one.
“The next morning, I went with my husband, sister and brother-in-law and my doctor confirmed I had
DO NOT LET THIS DISEASE TAKE LIFE AWAY FROM YOU
colon cancer and needed to be operated on immediately. I was shocked and almost lost my mind. I heard cancer and my head started spinning. I don’t know a single person who has cancer. All I knew about it is that it is a deadly disease and cannot be cured,” says Leah, adding that she could not imagine living with cancer and thought she would not live long.
The doctor then asked Leah to find out if there was a history of cancer in her family and it is then that she discovered that her father had died from throat cancer and her sister had a lump removed from her breast.
DEALING WITH THE DISEASE
It took Leah time to accept that she had cancer. In 2010 she went under the knife again after discovering that the cancer had returned and she went through stages of stress, depression and anxiety.
“It was difficult dealing with the cancer. Due to work obligations, my husband did not live with me and couldn’t support me as he wished he could. It was just me and the kids and I worried about who would take care of them when I am gone. I had no appetite, which resulted in an enormous loss of weight,” she says. Leah is now cancer free. “I speak freely and openly about cancer and try to shed light about the illness. My children are grown up now and I have shared my story with them too.”
The foundation phase teacher says she has also spoken to her church members about having cancer and how serious the disease is.
The church now supports Choc House in Capital Park, north of Pretoria, a shelter for children diagnosed with cancer and going through chemotherapy.
Leah has been fortunate enough that her friends, neighbours and family members have not turned their backs on her.
“The cancer has strengthened my relationships. My husband and I are still going strong and my friends and family have continued to love me over the years,” she adds. The support of her husband and family has given her the strength to believe this isn’t the end and that she has so much to live for. “To people dealing and living with cancer, do not let this disease take life away from you. Do your research on the disease and know how to tackle it. Find out what food you can and cannot eat. Find a hobby to keep you busy and enjoy every single day of your life,” she advises.
YOU CAN LIVE A NORMAL LIFE
Dr Sophie Mokoka, a doctor at Steve Biko Hospital in Pretoria, says the biggest misconception about cancer is that you will die if you have the disease.
“If cancer is detected early enough, it can be treated and you can still live a very normal life,” says Dr Sophie.
She maintains that everyone with or without cancer should educate themselves about the illness.
Information on cancer is freely available at clinics and on the internet.
You can learn how to care for yourself if you have been diagnosed with cancer and what treatment to seek, while those who are affected can learn how to support their loved ones living with cancer.
Leah Lehobye's son, Onkgopotse (20), daughter, Keotshepile (16) and husband, Orphan, have been her pillar of strength since she got diagnosed with colon cancer