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.

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