Sihlesenkosi Mkondo Correspondent
October 2017 is the month that brought me into the depths of cancer. And I will tell my story.
Having cancer is not necessarily a death sentence. In this edition of “Cancer: My Story, not My Obituary”, I get to tell my story. I get to tell it because I live . . .
My Story, my journey
On October 12, 2017, I did something I had joyfully done since 2012 and I went to the Cancer Association Centre in the Avenues area of Harare.
I was full of joy because I liked the pink ribbon one receives after the screening.
I never really registered what the pink ribbon represented and the impact it ought to have and the awareness it ought to bring. I was not worried about the lump that had grown rather rapidly in the past two months.
I had never heard of cancer in my family, immediate and extended. I had had thorough medical tests 10 months earlier.
Nothing prepared me for the worry and urgency registered by the nurses doing the screening.
I complied with their instructions and by the end of that day I had a mammogram, ultrasound scan and a biopsy done. The radiologist and the doctor had the same urgency as the nurses had.
By November 2017, I went through surgery and in December I started chemotherapy treatment. It was all a whirlwind, but family and friends were worried to no end.
It was during the early chemo treatments that I discovered that there were several types of breast cancer, some aggressive and I was suffering from one of the aggressive ones.
Now, that was a problem as by nature I dig deep until I get understanding. It was worrying because the mortality rates were beyond my expectations, the cost of treatments that were already way over my head, were astronomic.
I got all the advice, but something moved me to endeavour to get the targeted treatments. The medical team ordered yet another ultrasound scan and the results were not good.
Cancer had spread into some bones, the doctors advised accordingly, I was stage 4, which meant that survival was reduced drastically.
I took a chance at the targeted treatments. I had to have fund raising activities. I had to approach corporates and individuals to assist with financial aid and they did.
Coping with treatments
Robin Roberts said, “It’s about focusing on the fight and not the fright” while John Diamond said, “Cancer is a word, not a sentence”. Instead of embracing the cancer, I chose to embrace the path to healing.
Treatments were gruelling and incapacitating for the most part, but I endured.
My immune system took a knock which meant additional injections and endless visits to the hospital. With radiation therapy after chemo I got radiation burns.
At the back of my mind was the question of whether or not I would be alive the coming week or month.
Foremost in my mind was my family, my young children. Coping with treatments meant an active decision to give the fight my all.
A positive mindset was and is necessary in dealing with cancer as it is when dealing with any other challenging situation. A good support system is yet another necessity when fighting cancer, lucky for me my family and friends were fully in it with me.
I found that taking a keen interest on what I was going through kept my mind from worry and too much stress.
I engaged doctors and other medical professionals barraging them with questions. I read about what I was going through, I listened to others who had gone through it, I stayed strong in my faith.
For this instalment I will end with a word that I got from my faith: “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God “
Sihlesenkosi Mkondo is a researcher for Zimpapers Television Network and a Cancer Advocate