October being Breast CANCER Awareness month, I asked a friend and colleague whose journey we praying is over, to share her experience.
If you missed the introduction to Kanitha’s Breast CANCER journey, don’t stress. Pop on over here and find out how her journey began, then get back to this entry so you can read all about what her treatment experience has been like.
Thank you for sharing your story with me and my readers my friend.
EKL – What has your journey with breast cancer been like so far?
Looking back to a year ago today, it all feels so surreal. Like I am watching a movie. I still can’t believe what I have had to endure over the last year. Before the operation, I was petrified. I had never had an operation before, other than the Caesarian birth I had with my son – that doesn’t count in my books. I watched YouTube movies and read other people’s experiences but nothing prepares you for the BIG day. Society deems that a woman’s breast is associated with her femininity, her sexuality as well as her ability to breastfeed. So naturally I felt I was losing a part of being a woman. It’s was a huge mental adjustment for me, but my biggest focus was to remove cancer from my body. Just before I went into the theater, the plastic surgeon, Dr. M Venter, came into the room and I burst into tears but she hugged me and assured me I was in the best hands. I would be fine. I was! I AM!
…appreciate the support others offer…
After the operation, I had some severe pain. Due to the drainage pipe protruding from my body, I had to learn to sleep on my back. Something I took for granted like getting up from bed or walking across to the bathroom became a challenge. The first night back home from the hospital both my kids decided that they were sleeping in my room to make sure I was fine. Being an independent woman, it was a huge adjustment for me to start relying on others for support. As days went by I began to learn what works for me and before long I was managing on my own again to a point. As I was still in recovery the doctor stressed there were things I should avoid to heal properly like no lifting my arm, no carrying anything, not even stirring a pot. It took a while for the swelling to subside and the wounds to heal. Today, I can share that my wounds are 100% healed. My back still hurts occasionally from the operation, especially if I sit for too long or if I over exert myself physically. I have had to learn to take life slower, stop trying to do everything for my family and appreciate the support others offer me.
EKL – We hear and watch much about chemotherapy, how has your journey been or was …?
Chemotherapy is no joke! What you see in the movies is only but the tip of the iceberg. The effect is just one, the effects are many. It doesn’t affect people, in the same way. Each individual undergoing chemotherapy will not react in the same way to the treatment. Also, different chemo’s have different effects.
I found the staff and nurses at the Donald Gordon Oncology unit amazing. They are compassionate and friendly despite dealing with so many cancer cases . During treatment, I would spend full days at the hospital so I would take with me snacks and reading material to help me think about other things besides what I was going through.
I can tick off most of the boxes of the effects experienced, some more severe than others. From hair to appetite loss, nausea, sore mouth, leg cramps, numbness in my hands and feet, stomach issues, weakness, chemo brain etc. I experienced it all. My biggest challenge was the effect the chemo had on my liver. For this reason, I had to have regular blood tests to make sure that my blood count was fine and check the liver enzymes. For me, this journey has taught me to relax more and to lose some of my independence. I hated that I had no control over any of the side effects and how it made me feel. I could not take anything to prevent it from happening. I was … is part of the CANCER treatment process towards hopeful healing. You have to go through it all to get to the other side. That’s where I am now. My strength is coming back, I have my appetite back, can taste and enjoy food again and my hair has started to grow. My liver is back to normal function as well. The newest chemo tablet I am on comes with its own challenges of which the biggest is Cervical cancer. So I have to make sure I have regular checkups.
This is where I am today.
If Allah brings you to it…He will bring you through it.
My strength is returning, as I find I am stronger with each passing day. I have my appetite back. I can finally taste and enjoy food again. and my hair has started to grow. My liver is back to normal function as well. The newest chemo tablet I am on comes with its own challenges of which the biggest is Cervical cancer. So I have to make sure I have regular checkups.
I have my appetite back. I can finally taste and enjoy food again. and my hair has started to grow. My liver is back to normal function as well. The newest chemo tablet I am on comes with its own challenges of which the biggest is Cervical cancer. So I have to make sure I have regular checkups.
I can finally taste and enjoy food again. and my hair has started to grow. My liver is back to normal function as well. The newest chemo tablet I am on comes with its own challenges of which the biggest is Cervical cancer. So I have to make sure I have regular checkups.
My hair has started to grow back. My liver is back to normal function as well. The newest chemo tablet I am on comes with its own challenges of which the biggest is Cervical cancer. So I have to make sure I have regular checkups.
My liver is back to normal function. The newest chemo tablet I am on comes with its own challenges of which the biggest is Cervical cancer. So I have to make sure I have regular checkups.
I’m not on the aggressive chemo treatment anymore, but I’m still receiving chemotherapy. I now receive chemo in tablet form. It has its own set of side effects, the biggest being possible Cervical CANCER. For this reason, I now have regular checkups.
EKL – Did you find your employer understanding of the journey you are on?
Yes! I have been very fortunate as they have been very supportive and accommodating. I chose to share my experiences with my management, as it was important for them to know and understand what I was, and am going through. Them understanding the demands of my treatment on me both physically and mentally, helped when I needed time off work or when I requested to work from home on the days I felt too weak to get out of bed.
I did find that some of my colleagues seemed to be afraid to bring up the topic or even ask how I was doing.
EKL – How have you managed to balance work and chemo treatment sessions?
It was and continues to be very difficult. Especially while I was on my first chemo treatment. Sitting in traffic for an hour to work and an hour back. People looking at me with pitiful eyes and shock when I had no eyebrows and my face was swollen and red. There were days I was really weak and had no energy, but had to force myself to work. I used some Herbalife products a friend suggested and this helped to lift me up and give me a little energy to get through the day. I tried to eat foods that helped build my strength. I honestly don’t know how I managed some days, but I did. I have cut out very spicy food as well as wheat and sugar. Two to three times a week I now juice fruit and veggies and have increased my water intake. I am trying to eat according to my blood type which means no red meat for me, a huge challenge for me as I love a good chop on the braai from time to time.
…I love a good chop …
EKL – Who or what has been your biggest support on this journey?
My faith in Allah(God) kept me going. I am extremely grateful for all the love and support I received, immediate family, extended family, friends, colleagues. Some were with me all the time and continue to be, while others were there for the period they were meant to be around me for. I am thankful for each person that has played a role in my journey thus far. Mostly I’m appreciative of me, for I am proud of how I have managed to overcome so much and become the strong woman I am today.
EKL – How have you coped with the cost of treatment?
My medical aid has been amazing. They have an oncology plan that is over and above the day-to-day cover. The cover has covered the bulk of the expenses op, doctors bills, hospitalization, medication, consultations, chemo, radiation, basically anything that had to do with my CANCER treatment. That said, I have also had to budget for some bills that must be paid in advance. I have had to sit down with my family and discuss how we were going to have to be a frugal lifestyle with our monthly budget until my treatment is over. Like with everything else in life, my medical aid cover is not without a limit… so have had to accommodate some unforeseen expenses too. CANCER treatment is expensive, yoh! For the first time, I’m grateful that work forces us to be part of the medical aid else I just don’t know how I would have coped.
EKL – How have you coped emotionally?
I pray all the time now. I talk to friends and family sharing honestly how I am feeling. I have stopped bottling things up and trying to solve the problems of the world. My kids also don’t allow me to be sad or wallow for too long on the negative side of my CANCER journey. They are busy bodies and focusing on being a mum to them instead of being ill, has also helped me.
Drop the negativity that your mind has created the situation and that serves no purpose whatsoever except to strengthen a false sense of self – Eckhart Tolle
EKL – Has this journey affected your outlook on life?
Being faced with your own mortality has been a huge wake-up call for me. Physically, mentally and spiritually. So yes, CANCER has affected how I see life.
Life is precious.
I have much to be thankful for.
Recently I read the book, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle , and it opened my eyes on how important it is for us to be living in the here and now. The past is gone and cannot be changed. We don’t know what the future holds, so it doesn’t call for so much of our focus.
I am here today.
I. Am. Alive. Today.
I celebrate that every day… make sure you do too…