Eunice’s cancer journey

I am a young South African and I live in scenic Cape Town with my parents. My cancer journey started when I was only 17 years old. I was in my final year of high school and an athlete at school. I became aware that my one breast was hurting me, that it was bigger than the other and that it was rock hard. I told my parents that I wanted the problem sorted out and I was really scared that it was something serious like cancer.  My nightmare came true when I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and the medical practitioner I saw was really surprised about the diagnosis at my young age. I had a lumpectomy, and to put my mind at ease, I also received chemotherapy and radiation. I was confident of a good result and went to my school ball with my bald head. My new ‘€œhair style’€ was greatly admired by all and I was even a maid of honour at my sister’€™s wedding that year.

I was cancer-free for six months and started working after I completed high school. After a few months at work I started feeling severe pain in my back and could not sit at my desk. The pain got really bad and I was forced to stay at home. A good friend acted as my companion-caregiver while my parents were working. My persistent pain got my dad to take me to hospital and after a series of test it was established that I had cancer in my spine. A bone marrow transplant was recommended. I got really depressed at that point, but the love and support of my family, friends and our congregation really encouraged me and carried me through this tough time. Eventually the decision was not to have the bone marrow transplant. I rallied and refocused on my life.

I started working again at the same company that always calling me to come back. I worked for three years and then did some au pair work. I even spent a month in England!  Truth be known, I really was not cut out to be an au pair and I was very relieved to return to regular work. Back at my old job I developed severe headaches and eventually fainted at work. My dad and the ambulance were called and I was rushed to hospital where two brain tumours were discovered. I got through this third brush with cancer due to my strong faith and with the support of people who love me.

I was much better equipped to deal with the third episode and started reaching out to other cancer patients and survivors. I started speaking about my cancer journey to different groups and my confidence grew. A year later I started volunteering at the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) and sharing my experiences with others. I also got involved with one of the first Relay For Life events in South Africa as a Survivor Chairperson, worked at the Eikehof Interim Home (like Hope Lodge), did radio interviews, appeared in magazines and on a talks show.

It feels really good to encourage and motivate people. I have learned that it is not about me, but what I can do to help people, especially newly diagnosed patients and cancer survivors. I don’€™t regret the fact that I’€™ve had to travel this hard road as I have grown enormously and the experience has made me a very resilient young woman.      

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