Just a day before she was due for life-saving cancer surgery, Ntsako Manganyi tested positive for COVID-19.  With the surgery postponed, the 33-year-old had to come to terms with fighting two potentially fatal illnesses—breast cancer and the coronavirus.

 “The experience was a bit scary for me as I was scared of dying, considering the number of people who died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in the country and some of them did not even have any of the chronic illnesses,” said Manganyi.

In February this year, Manganyi travelled from her home village of Bungeni outside Thohoyandou in Limpopo, to Kalafong Hospital in Gauteng for her scheduled surgery. Manganyi was meant to have a mastectomy, surgery to remove one of her breasts where the cancer had spread.

 “Here I was fighting both COVID-19 and breast cancer at the same time. Luckily, I never experienced any serious sickness from COVID-19 as I only had a minor flu and never showed any other symptoms,” said Manganyi.

She also focused on her six-year-old twins.

“Because of the love I have for my children, I knew that I had to be strong and survive all this so that I can be here to see my kids grow,” said Manganyi.

Fighting Cancer during COVID-19

In August last year Health-e News reported how Manganyi had to travel Gauteng for her treatment after she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2019 at Elim Hospital in Limpopo. The COVID-19-related lockdown.

Each month, Manganyi commuted for her treatment, but the COVID-19 lockdown measures in 2020 made this impossible. People living with cancer are more vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus, as their immune systems are weakened. Contracting COVID-19 made Manganyi’s battle with cancer even more difficult.

“The fact that most people who were healthy and had no other COVID-19 comorbidities died as a result of COVID-19, but I am still here and strong, I feel happy and blessed. I feel like I have been given a second chance at life,” she said.

After her positive test, Manganyi self-isolating at home for a period of two weeks, and fully recovering from COVID-19. She returned to Kalafong Hospital and successfully underwent surgery. Manganyi’s older sister, who is also a breast cancer survivor, runs the Ntshembo Cancer Foundation support centre for breast cancer survivors.

“I was given enough support and counselling which helped me to prepare for the surgery and the entire treatment. And nurses and doctors at Kalafong Hospital were always there and very helpful, explaining everything and made my stay there very peaceful,” she said.

Losing a breast to save a life

For Manganyi, losing a part of her body to cancer, was better than losing her life.

“It was scary and sad knowing that I was set to lose one part of my body, but I told myself that it is better to lose a breast but not my life. Though for the first few days, after the surgery I struggled with lifting heavy items, now I have fully recovered and I am able to do almost everything and very soon I will be starting with breast cancer radiation therapy, which is the last part of the treatment,” says Manganyi.

As she prepares for radiation therapy after her surgery, Manganyi wants to instil hope in people battling breast cancer.

“Though it can take you months and years to overcome breast cancer, it is possible to beat it. Now I am grateful that I am only going to embark on the last part of my treatment and very soon I will be completing the whole process,” she added.—Health-e News