National Cancer Survivors Day is commemorated every year, on 6 of June. On the day, cancer survivors gather with their loved ones to celebrate their lives, raise awareness and serve as an inspiration to anyone battling cancer.
But, this year’s event was sombre for cancer survivors in villages surrounding the Vhembe District. In April this year, a woman who pioneered cancer education in the area, 35-year-old Nyeleti Manganyi, passed away. She was the founder of Ntshembho Cancer Foundation.
The foundation educates people in rural communities in Limpopo about the various types of cancer. Manganyi was a breast cancer survivor who dedicated her life to teaching about cancer and offering advice and support to those battling the disease and their families. Manganyi used to spend her time visiting local clinics within the Vhembe District to hold motivational talks, encouraging fellow villagers to go for regular cancer screenings.
Inspired to effect change
Through her own experience, Manganyi had found that there was not enough knowledge filtering down to people in the rural villages of Limpopo. At this year’s National Cancer Survivors Day, those Manganyi helped through the foundation vowed to keep her legacy alive, by continuing to help others.
Manganyi was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016. In August last year, she told Health-e News that she did not know anything about cancer when she was first diagnosed. The quest to learn more about the disease drove her to establish Ntshembho Cancer Foundation.
39-year-old Yvonne Tintswalo Baloyi told Health-e News that Baloyi gave her the courage to go for cancer screening in 2019 when she felt a huge lump on her right-side breast. “To be honest, prior to being diagnosed with breast cancer at Elim Hospital in 2019, I had no knowledge about what breast cancer was and the person who explained everything to me was Nyeleti as she is the one who also encouraged me to go and get checked and she was by my side throughout the whole journey. Though she is gone we will carry on where she left off and we will keep on encouraging other people from rural areas to go for screening, the same way Nyeleti used to preach to anyone she met. And I believe that this is the best way to honor someone who had dedicated her life to helping cancer victims,” she said.
Tributes to a village hero
Baloyi described Manganyi as hero in their rural village of Bungeni, outside Louis Trichardt. “People used to come to her when they needed help or advice regarding cancer matters. She was determined to end the myths and beliefs about cancer in rural villages. She also gave me courage to stand in front of people and share my journey with cancer and she also gave me hope that there is life after cancer,” said Baloyi.
Manganyi’s younger sister Ntsako is currently undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer at Kalafong Hospital in Pretoria. She described her elder sister as someone who was always ready to lend a helping hand, especially when it came to helping people fight cancer.
“She was a person who was always ready to help others and she would do whatever it takes to ensure that they get the help they needed. She had dedicated her life to helping other cancer survivors by giving them hope, education and knowledge about matters pertaining to cancer,” said Ntsako Manganyi.
Ntsako told Health-e News that her sister had encouraged her to go for cancer screening, something she will always be grateful for. “As a cancer survivor myself I feel that we have lost a giant who was always determined to ensure that cancer victims in rural areas get help. And they are so many people who got screened and diagnosed with cancer because of her assistance as she would always encourage anyone, she meets whether at work, street or church to go for cancer screening to ensure early diagnoses,” she said.
A fun walk to celebrate Manganyi, who is survived by two young boys, will be held at Bungeni Village on the 23rd of October 2021.
According to the World Health Organisation, cancer is a large group of diseases that can start in almost any organ or tissue of the body, when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably, go beyond their usual boundaries to invade adjoining parts of the body and spread to other organs. – Health-e News