MY BODY THE WAR­RIOR These women share the bat­tles their bod­ies fought… and won

We some­times for­get how strong we are, es­pe­cially when we face chal­lenges like ill­ness or dis­abil­ity. These three women share the bat­tles their bod­ies fought… and won

Essentials (South Africa) - - CONTENTS DECEMBER 2018 - Find @jade.wyn­gaardt on Face­book

Jade Wyn­gaardt, 29, is a busi­ness owner and lives in Wood­stock with her hus­band Ge­orge, 34, sons Kairo, four, Is­rael, three, and twins Kenya and Ju­dah, 18 months. I found a pea-sized lump in my breast dur­ing a self- exam in 2016 but I didn’t think much of it – I had my hands full start­ing my agency, Click Africa Dig­i­tal, and run­ning around af­ter two tod­dlers. But when I men­tioned it to Ge­orge he in­sisted I see a doc­tor. A trip to my GP put my mind at ease be­cause she didn’t think it was some­thing to worry about be­cause of my age and the size of the lump, but she sent me to a breast clinic for a biopsy as a pre­cau­tion.

But my biopsy re­sults con­firmed that I had stage 1 breast can­cer. Hear­ing the news was dev­as­tat­ing: all I could think about was Ge­orge and our sons – how would they cope with­out me? But I was lucky; the can­cer was dis­cov­ered early and I had op­tions avail­able: a dou­ble mas­tec­tomy was sched­uled and I was started on treat­ment straight away.

My body

A few days be­fore my mas­tec­tomy

I woke up not feel­ing quite like my­self – I’d been preg­nant twice be­fore and had a nag­ging feel­ing that I might be again. A preg­nancy test re­vealed that I was right; the tim­ing couldn’t have been worse. But when I told Ge­orge, he was over the moon, while I sim­ply dis­solved into tears. He said the preg­nancy was a bless­ing and com­forted me by say­ing that we’d get through this to­gether.

When I met with my doc­tors I told them I was preg­nant, which changed every­thing. The treat­ment they’d put me on was dan­ger­ous for my un­born baby and it could cause birth de­fects,

‘My in­cred­i­ble body beat can­cer and grew two ba­bies at the same time’

so I was taken off it im­me­di­ately. My only choice left was chemo­ther­apy, which of course, in­volves many side ef­fects, like a com­pro­mised im­mune sys­tem. My doc­tors’ main pri­or­ity was my safety, so they ad­vised me to se­ri­ously con­sider a ter­mi­na­tion, as, even though I would be start­ing chemo, my preg­nancy was still con­sid­ered to be very high risk – plus, the long-term ef­fects of be­ing on chemo while preg­nant are not yet known.

I was com­pletely ter­ri­fied; I had to make such a big decision but I thought of the two chil­dren I al­ready had – who re­ally needed me now – and I agreed to the pro­ce­dure. The doc­tors sched­uled the dou­ble mas­tec­tomy and the ter­mi­na­tion for the same day the next week. Although Ge­orge was against the ter­mi­na­tion, he knew I was in a tricky po­si­tion and he sup­ported my decision. He said that he couldn’t be there dur­ing the pro­ce­dure; a choice I re­spected, as we felt it was im­por­tant for both of us to deal with the sit­u­a­tion as a team, in our own ways.

On the day, my doc­tors had limited time in the­atre and could only per­form one mas­tec­tomy; they couldn’t do the ter­mi­na­tion, ei­ther. I was told to visit a clinic 10 days later to have it done. I hardly slept and I prayed for a sign that I was mak­ing the right decision.

When I ar­rived at the clinic the nurse did a rou­tine scan and con­firmed that I was six weeks preg­nant. She asked if I wanted to know any­thing about the preg­nancy, and when I told her I didn’t have much choice in the mat­ter as I had to undergo chemo, she turned the screen to­wards me and then pointed out two heart­beats; I was preg­nant with twins. It was the sign I was wait­ing for: I was un­com­fort­able end­ing the preg­nancy in the first place, but hav­ing to put an end to two heart­beats was too much for me to bear. Ge­orge was ec­static when I re­turned home and broke the news to him. I then in­formed my team of doc­tors that I wanted to keep the ba­bies, leav­ing them with no choice but to re­search a treat­ment plan to try keep all three of us alive.

I hardly slept; I prayed for a sign that I was mak­ing the right decision

The war­rior

For the next eight months my body not only had to deal with the changes that come about with nor­mal twin preg­nancy, it also had to cope with the changes caused by the treat­ment. My can­cer pro­gressed from stage 1 to stage 3 and spread to my lymph nodes.

But my doc­tors and Ge­orge were amaz­ing and they re­as­sured me that every­thing would be fine – it gave me the strength that I needed. I fo­cused on eating healthily and was mind­ful of the two grow­ing hu­mans in­side of me – I was not go­ing to give up. Kenya and Ju­dah were born on 1 Fe­bru­ary 2017 at 34 weeks and were healthy. I was kept on the can­cer treat­ment and thank­fully went into re­mis­sion three months af­ter their birth. My body en­gaged in a bat­tle of sur­vival for me and my fam­ily, and I’m for­ever grate­ful for its re­silience.

The breast can­cer has re­cently come back, which is a ter­ri­ble blow, but I know my body will sur­vive its sec­ond bat­tle.

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