Surviving breast cancer

11 Oct, 2020 - 00:10 0 Views
Surviving breast cancer

The Sunday Mail

Fatima Bulla-Musakwa

EVERY year, from October 1-31, pink ribbons become accessories of choice as celebrities, politicians, influencers and ordinary people mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

As the world observes this awareness period, the grim picture is that more women continue to be affected and are succumbing to the disease.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the non-communicable disease impacts 2,1 million each year and causes the greatest number of cancer-related deaths among women.

Health experts note the increasing adoption of a Western lifestyle in low and middle-income countries as an important determinant in the increase of breast cancer numbers in these countries.

Early detection and diagnosis has long been identified as the best way to improve chances of survival among affected women as most of them present cancer in late stages.

Worryingly, research notes that most of the deaths recorded globally occur in low and middle-income countries like Zimbabwe as a result of late detection making it difficult to control.

It is against this background that the story of 37-year-old Rumbidzai Kanhukamwe, a breast cancer survivor, is worth celebrating.

In April last year, she was diagnosed with triple negative, an aggressive type of breast cancer which was already at Stage three, Grade three.

Triple negative requires chemotherapy and radiation, and also presents a higher recurrence rate. Because of its negative nature, there is no targeted treatment option because it is not in the genes or hormonal.

As such Kanhukamwe, a wife and mother of two, was put on a tough regime of chemotherapy as the cancer had advanced.

With an initial treatment plan of eight sessions of chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy, Kanhukamwe’s body began to give in to the effects of treatment.

She suffered chemo burns, her pigmentation was affected and she began to lose hair.

“When chemotherapy hit hard I knew it was just another opportunity for me to fight and be a victor,” said Kanhukamwe.

“The initial plan to have a lumpectomy changed as the doctors said it was going to be a mastectomy instead because of the multifocal tumours I had in my breast which were spread in different quadrants.

“I cried but I had to pick myself fast and play along to the new decision but with a lot of questions for the doctors because I could not imagine my body with just one breast.”

While still trying to adjust to the painful treatment, she received more bad news.

“The doctors decided to go for a full mastectomy with reconstruction. It happened.

“One reckless doctor put a non-functioning drain thus I developed a haematoma.

“Two days after the operation I went for draining but it didn’t work. On day six, I was taken back to theatre because of the haematoma,” she narrated her ordeal.

In a week, Kanhukamwe had gone through two surgeries, and after eight weeks she started 30 sessions of radiation signifying the end of her treatment.

Having overcome a range of emotions which included physical pain, disbelief, sadness and anxiety during the treatment phase, today she can only hope that the cancer will not recur.

“My heart tells me that anything that comes now will just be a walk over.

“ Chemotherapy was not a walk in the park but I could not afford to let it define me,” said Kanhukamwe confidently.

“Cancer is a silent killer. It is said by the time you start to feel pain you are almost dying.

“At no point did I allow myself to be defined by cancer.

“I took it as a chapter in my life and not the whole story so I wanted total control of my life.”

Kanhukamwe revealed that life
during chemotherapy was tough as the treatment fights the immune system, kills all growing cells including the healthy ones and reduces the patient’s energy levels.

She believes fighting cancer is determined in the mind and one can set themselves up for victory simply by having a positive mindset.

The theme for the 2020 Breast Cancer Awareness Month is “I am and I will”.

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