Celebrating stories of hope with cancer survivors
The Western Cape Department of Health is happy to celebrate with two patients from Groote Schuur Hospital, Mrs Ntuthu Sonjica and Mrs Fatima Meyer who have survived cancer. International Cancer Survivors Day (2 June) is fitting to share their stories to inspire those recently diagnosed and offer support to their loved ones.
According to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), cancer affects one in four South Africans, through diagnosis of family, friends, colleagues, or self. Getting cancer diagnoses can be a shock and coping with the tests and treatment is hard. The first goal of cancer treatment is to cure the cancer, and many survive it. When it is not possible to cure it, then the goal is to help you cope with having advanced cancer, to prevent it from spreading and to limit your symptoms.
Sonjica (61) is a registered nurse from Langa. All her life she has dedicated it to make a difference in her community. Currently, she is contributing to the Western Cape’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts as a vaccinator in her community. She follows a healthy lifestyle, especially in terms of her eating habits. Her family has no history of cancer. But in January 2019 she fell very ill and was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer, which affects the lymphatic system, a part of the body's germ-fighting network.
Sonjica was admitted to Groote Schuur Hospital and stayed in the oncology ward for three months. While in hospital, one of the decisions she had to make was if she would allow chemotherapy (a form of chemical drug therapy meant to destroy rapidly growing cells in the body) to treat her cancer. “I did not want to get chemotherapy because I know it can either make me sicker or it can make me healthy. I was totally against it. But the oncologist had a chat with me while my son was at the hospital and he advised me to take the chance so that I can still be there for my son. I then decided to take chemotherapy thanks to the advice from the doctor. When I look back that is what saved my life.”
Sonjica had her chemotherapy and when she had her tests seven months later the cancer was gone. She is grateful to the Groote Schuur Hospital oncology staff for the care she received and giving her the necessary support so that she could make informed decisions. Now she is playing a key role in her community vaccinating people against the coronavirus.
Meyer, a 24-year-old-wife, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer (which begins in the female organs that produce eggs/ ovaries) in 2019. It all started with pain in her abdomen and she was admitted to Groote Schuur Hospital after being referred from a healthcare institution in Mitchells Plain. It was a journey where she had tumours removed during surgery and spent several days in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. It was a difficult journey for the mother of a four-year-old who has been in remission from cancer from late 2020. Remission means that the signs and symptoms of your cancer are reduced. If you remain in complete remission for five years or more, some doctors may say that you are cured.
One thing that both these patients have in common is their spiritual faith and the support of their loved ones. Getting support from family and making them understand what you are going through when you walk this journey with cancer is important so that they can support you where possible. “Cancer starts in the mind, especially when you get diagnosed. Don’t give up. Focus on your inner self and shut out the noise that is around you,” adds Sonjica.
Know when to seek healthcare:
- Seek healthcare if you experience troublesome treatment side effects.
- Meet with your healthcare worker to plan for your treatment and to choose what care you would like if you become too unwell to decide.
- If your cancer spreads and a cure is no longer possible, ask for palliative care to help you and your family cope with the symptoms and stress of having advanced cancer.
Groote Schuur Hospital
Cell - 083 412 5608