How she beat cancer

Oc­to­ber is cancer aware­ness month and sur­vivor Leah Le­hobye is teach­ing those around her about the dis­ease

Move! - - CONTENTS - By Boi­tumelo Mat­shaba

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.”

GET­TING SUP­PORT

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

Leah Le­hobye with some of her learn­ers from Mot­she­go­fadiwa Pri­mary School in Stinkwa­ter, Ham­man­skraal

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