Jabulile Madondo is a vibrant 58-year-old from KwaZulu-Natal. And she has survived breast cancer… twice.
Before 1996 she had never done a breast self examination. One night she was woken by something “falling off” of her breast, and the next morning, not sure whether she dreamt it or not, she decided to feel if anything was amiss. That’s when she found a large lump in her right breast.
She went to the doctor who then did a biopsy and two days later she received the bad news – she had a cancerous lump the size of a golf ball and she had to have a mastectomy – removal of the whole breast. “I feel so sorry for that doctor, the way I cried in his office that day,” Jabulile said, looking a little embarrassed.
The doctor answered all her questions and addressed her concerns, and soon she realised how fortunate she was to have access to private medical care and all the information she needed to understand what she was going through. “And then I thought about the rural women who don’t have any information or easy access to doctors, and I realised how lucky I was,” said Jabulile.
Her mastectomy was done the very next day and soon after that her radiation and then chemo started. “I was very lucky to have a wonderful oncologist who explained everything to me in the simplest form,” she said.
Throughout her treatment and recovery, her thoughts kept going back to the rural women and what they must go through in these situations: “Will they understand what is happening to them?”, “Will they know why it is important to comply to treatment?”, “Will they understand the side effects?”
She made a complete recovery and started going for routine mammograms, but in 2007 they found cancer in her left breast too. “I was even more devastated than the first time I was diagnosed. I couldn’t believe I had to go through all of that again.”Chemotherapy was hell for Jabulile and she suffered severe side effects from the treatment. “I was so excited when my hair started coming back after chemo – it was the most beautiful hair that I’ve ever seen!”
Luckily the cancer was caught at an early stage and the lump could be removed without losing the whole breast. She also only had to undergo chemotherapy, and no radiation.
Her experience with breast cancer made her realise that she wanted to do more for rural women, and she has since became involved with an organisation called Sinomusanothando Community Development, which means “bringing hope, care and love.”
Sinomusanothando works in the community of KwaNyuswa west of Durban where they inform rural women about cancer, especially breast and cervical cancer, and help them access diagnostics and treatment.
“In these communities women don’t talk about these problems, and by the time they ask for help it is often too late to save them. Sinomusanothando is making a big difference in these women’s lives, in fact, in many cases I think it saves their lives and brings them hope.”