The Sunday Mail
At the age of 11, she was diagnosed with bone cancer.
The news did not mean much to her as she was too young to process the implications.
However, on February 22 2012, when her left leg was amputated, it suddenly dawned on young Wadzanai Mashinye that her life would never be the same again.
As hard as it was to accept, she had to move on with her life.
“Being young at that, I really did not think they would really amputate my leg. However, when I came from the theatre and I saw I was left with one leg, I was hurt and confused,” the soft-spoken 19-year-old told The Sunday Mail from her home in Kambuzuma.
“There were times I questioned my situation; questioned my existence. Whenever I saw girls of my age running or doing the things I could no longer do, I would always say, ‘God, why me?’
“It was then that I started to realise that everything happens for a reason,” she said.
Born in 2000, Wadzanai was always bubbly, energetic and athletic.
She naturally took a liking to athletics and softball.
But in 2011, while attending a physical education at school, her life took an ugly turn when she fell and hit her leg against a rock.
She was subsequently told that she had fractured it, which for an 11-year-old was no big deal as she could easily heal, or so she thought.
Lady Luck frowned on her.
The swelling got worse and the pain became unbearable.
A second visit to the hospital brought tragic news: doctors discovered cancerous cells in her bones and she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma — a type of cancer which is very common in children and young adults.
Doctors immediately suggested that the leg be amputated to avoid the cancer from spreading and becoming life-threatening.
A mother’s pain
Her mother, Ms Caroline Mashaya, however, could not stomach the thought of her child losing one of her legs.
“The day I was told of the amputation I said to myself she would rather die with both her legs,” she said as she lovingly looked at her daughter.
“However, the thought of losing her at such a young age got the best of me until I accepted it. The major challenge was how to tell a small child that her leg was going to be amputated.
“She was so energetic and loved athletics so much such that I could not find the right words to tell her that she could no longer run around with other children of her age.”
However, as the pain got worse, Wadzanai began to understand that her leg had to be amputated.
“When she got out of the theatre with one leg and she said to me the doctors had taken her other leg, I realised she really did not understand the gravity of the disease she had been diagnosed with,” added Ms Mashaya.
There was even more agony for her.
The pain of her child going through chemotherapy torn her apart.
“However, it was the chemotherapy that ripped my heart, as she was constantly vomiting, losing hair and (her) veins darkening. It tore me inside, but I had to be strong for my little girl.
“Even now when I look at her, a part of me wishes she still had her two legs. However, I believe it was all part of the bigger things to come in life. I think being an oncologist is her calling.”
And Wadzanai agrees: “Had I not been diagnosed with cancer, maybe I would not have developed the passion I have to fight cancer; maybe I would not be preparing to go to the US for my bachelors’ degree; maybe you would not be here interviewing me.”
Winning the fight
In January this year, Wadzanai began taking stock of the spoils of her long and hard-fought battle with cancer. She just scored 14 points in her Advanced Level examinations.
Later this year, she will be flying to the United States of America to study bio-chemistry.
Her dream is to become an oncologist, as part of her broader vocation to help children diagnosed with cancer.
She now spends most of her spare time with children diagnosed with the disease at various hospitals and health centres in Harare.
Early this year, she raised some funds to purchase diapers for children admitted at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals’ cancer ward.
Cancer — be it breast, prostate, cervical or childhood cancer — has become the major cause of morbidity and mortality in Zimbabwe.
According to the National Cancer Registry, about 7 000 new cancer cases and over 2 500 deaths are being recorded every year.
Cancer is now the second-biggest killer disease after HIV.
It is believed that more than 80 percent of the victims visit health institutions late for treatment when the disease is already at an advanced stage.
According to new WHO figures released in 2015, 8,8 million people died from cancer, of which approximately two-thirds occurred in low — and middle-income countries.
As Zimbabwe joins the rest the world in commemorating World Cancer Day tomorrow, Wadzanai hopes the word that is spread this year is seeking early treatment and learning to live a positive life after diagnosis.
The year’s theme is “I am and I will”, which implores everyone to contribute in fighting cancer.
“The energy that you give out is the energy that you get out,” Wadzanai added.
“It is important to remain positive even after diagnosis, to know that everything happens for a reason and to live a full life even to the end.
“It is time everyone gets involved in the fight against cancer.”
For her, Mother Theresa’s words that ‘a life not lived for others is not a life’ have become her sacred creed.