Woman with rare breast condition on her cancer diagnosis
Camilla’s rare breast condition left her bedridden and in pain – but a cancer diagnosis may just be what she needs to live a normal life once more
SHE was relieved when the doctor broke the news to her. Being diagnosed with breast cancer would be a devastating blow for most women, especially when faced with the reality of losing both breasts. Yet when Camilla Neelse was told her cancer was so advanced she’d need a double mastectomy, she whispered “hallelujah”.
The mom of one suffers from gigantomastia, a rare condition that causes continued and excessive growth of the breast tissue. Camilla hasn’t been able to find a bra that fits in more than 18 months.
The last bra she could wear was a 40JJ, and her breasts are now too large for that too. Her shoulders, back and knees are in constant agony, she says, because of the weight of her breasts.
Now she’s looking forward to having them removed.
Camilla (37) isn’t belittling breast cancer. She knows the illness accounts for 16% of cancer deaths among women in South Africa. But having a double mastectomy is her only hope of living a normal life, she says.
She was bedridden when DRUM visited her at home in Kimberley in the Northern Cape last year (My breasts won’t stop growing, 8 November 2018).
Being stuck at home and having to rely on her husband, Nazeem Neethling (34), and the couple’s 11-year-old son took a toll on her but when we speak to her on the phone, she sounds like a brand-new woman.
“I was in a dark place. You get depressed and you don’t see a way out,” Camilla says.
“Now I walk short distances – my husband and son help me. I refuse to use a wheelchair. What if I never get up from it again?
“I’ll be getting my life back in early September,” she says.
“At last I can look to the future. I can see the light at the end of this thing.”
While many women consider their breasts a symbol of their femininity, Camilla’s have made her life a living hell.
G ETTING breast-reduction surgery isn’t as simple as it sounds. “My medical aid refuses to pay for the operation. I’ve tried everything and argued with them many times, but nothing helps,” she told us last year. Camilla went to a government hospital with her problem but was turned away and told she’s too overweight for an operation.
RIGHT and FAR RIGHT: Camilla Neelse struggles to walk and her husband Nazeem had to quit his job to take care of her full time. BELOW RIGHT: Camilla’s breasts have grown considerably since their wedding five years ago.