FRIENDS and family are an integral part of cancer care and support. Not only does cancer affect one’s physical health, it heavily weighs down on the patient’s mental health and that of family and caregivers. The anxiety and depression that kicks in following a cancer diagnosis is unimaginable.
A cancer diagnosis could mean anything, and without the right support system in the form of friends, family, colleagues and peers, the worst could happen. The month of October the world over has been set aside as Breast Cancer Awareness Month and is aimed at increasing attention and support for the awareness, early detection and treatment as well as palliative care of this disease. Currently there is not sufficient knowledge on the causes of breast cancer, therefore, early detection of the disease remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 1.38 million new cases and 458 000 deaths from breast cancer are recorded each year globally (IARC Globocan, 2008). However, when breast cancer is detected early, and if adequate diagnosis and treatment are available, there is a good chance that breast cancer can be cured.
For one Mrs Rumbidzai Kanhukamwe (RK) a Breast Cancer survivor who spoke at length in an interview below with our Editor Michael Gwarisa (MG), her success in the fight against Breast Cancer would not have been possible without her strong support system and unshakable faith in God.
MG: Could you just tell us a bit about yourself?
RK: My name is Rumbidzai Kanhukamwe, I am 37 years old and I am a mother of two and I am happily married.
MG: So Rumbidzai we understand you are a breast cancer survivor, could you just take us through that journey you walked from the time of diagnosis?
RK: In December of 2018, I felt a lump in my left breast, I rushed to the hospital and I got my breast examined and I was told that it was a non-cancerous, non-malignant lump and I was told instead that it was a fibroadenoma which has nothing to do with cancer.
MG: It’s obvious that after being told the lump was non-cancerous, you felt some form of relief, what did you do next after getting such news from the doctors?
RK: After being told my lump wasn’t cancerous, I rested for a bit but what made me more curious was the fact that the characteristics of a fibroadenoma is not what was happening to my body and to me. So, I just had to go back to the doctors to ask them why the lump was growing so fast, why the lump was exhibiting these characteristics. I doubted very much it was fibroadenoma, I was certain it was something else and not fibroadenoma. I was then tested for cancer, it was in March of 2019 when I was tested for cancer and I got my results in April the same year and they came back confirming the scary disease was with me, I was told that I had breast cancer.
MG: From what the doctors said, how aggressive was this type of breast cancer you had and at what stage was it at?
RK: The doctors told me that I had breast cancer, it was a triple negative type of cancer which is a very aggressive type of breast cancer. It was also an advanced stage type of cancer; it was Stage 3 and it had Grade 3 nature meaning it was moving too fast.
MG: How was the feeling and how did you feel after being told you had Breast Cancer?
RK: To be honest, I was so devastated, I was shocked, I feared for my life, I feared I would die. You know just being told you have Cancer is not an easy thing and it’s something that would obviously frighten anyone. Like any other human being, I was frightened.
MG: After the Breast Cancer diagnosis, what was the next step for you?
RK: After the diagnosis, I was told that I had to start on treatment immediately because it was advanced cancer, so I had to start on treatment immediately and because the tumor had grown, I had to start with Chemotherapy to reduce the size of the tumor. I started Chemotherapy and I did six months of chemotherapy and I finished my chemo and had my surgery.
MG: What type of surgery did you have?
RK: I had a two-in-one surgery which was a Mastectomy but it was a different Mastectomy because mine was a Mastectomy sparing the skin and severing the nipple. And I had reconstruction so I still have my two breasts with me. I was in remission because that breast that was removed went for testing and the Pathology tests came out saying that I had no evidence of cancer, it was a 100% complete response to Chemotherapy, there was no evidence of the disease.
MG: Wow, that’s great news, so what does this mean now, can we safely say you have now been completely healed of Breast Cancer?
RK: In medical terms and in the medical arena, they would not want to say that I was healed of Breast Cancer, but they would say that I was in remission because they fear that the cancer may come back again and also given that I was Stage 3 and this was an aggressive type of cancer and not a common cancer. They said I am in remission and they have to keep me under watch like for five years, after five years, they will then release me and say that I am completely healed.
MG: So what stage are you at right now in terms of your healing process?
RK: I am still in the remission stage; this is where we are still at the moment and I am one and half years out of Cancer now.
MG: What would you say helped you pull through this journey?
RK: I would say that my strong faith in God helped me and also the fact that I had a very strong support system. No one fights cancer alone; I had my family to fight with me. I had relatives, I had friends to help fight through this Cancer. I would say that you need a really strong support system to fight cancer and a positive mindset too.
MG: What word of advice and encouragement would you want to give to other ladies and women out there regarding Breast Cancer?
RK: I would want to say there is nothing to fear because a lot of women have walked this journey and I am one of them so there is no reason for anyone to be fearful. If I have done it, if I have achieved it, you can also do it and you can also achieve it. Don’t fear, go for testing. Early diagnosis saves lives and once you are diagnosed with Cancer, be hopeful, don’t lose faith, don’t lose trust in God. Also juts have the vigor to fight and the determination to move on.