#TouchYourselfTonight

In a series of witty PSA videos, the masked superhero Deadpool is using his new popularity to extend the benefits of self-examining your breasts to check for breast cancer. So, #TouchYourselfTonight.

“Did you know that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their life? So it looks like you’ve got some fumbling to do yourself.” #TouchYourselfTonight

Source: www.faircare.io

Moipone’s story

Moipone Sebiya shares her journey with breast cancer and encourages young women to remember that a diagnisis is not a death sentence

A family history of cancer

2014-10-31 10.18.58By Estelle Botha
Uitenhage

THE QUESTION I ASK IS:

DO YOU THINK LIFE CHANGES AFTER BEING DIAGNOSED WITH ANY FORM OF CANCER?

This is my story of Faith Love and Hope. Without these three I don’t know how I would have handled every situation that came my way in the form of cancer.

The word cancer was never mentioned or heard  of in our family or generations before us. But in the year 1992 the first blow came and the youngest of seven children who was also my twin sister was told she had breast cancer. This shocked the whole family she was only 37 at the time with two children at school. How can this be and why? I think when one does get cancer these are the questions that taunt us.

She had to undergo a complete mastectomy but no treatment. We could not understand this. Two years down the line the cancer had spread to her lungs and she fought a hard battle right to the end. To see her suffer this way was not easy for us as a family. She never got to see her daughter matriculate and son finish school.

Just before her 40th birthday she passed away, struggling to breathe. The night she died, my nephew who had had a brain tumour removed, came out of his coma. He was a young father with twin boys aged 4 and a wife. We all had mixed emotions: both sadness and joy, but all mindful of a sister we had just lost.

My twin’s love for God never wavered and not once did she complain. I realised then that I needed to get my priorities right I went to church but that was all and I thought it was ok.  Greg (my nephew) did not have it easy after that and he battled along, he always had a joke to tell no matter how he felt and in 2001 he too passed away. Greg was the eldest son to my eldest brother.

In 1999 my life took a change and my love for God grew in leaps and bounds and I knew that God had a plan and purpose for me, not knowing from now on the word Cancer would be part of my life. In 2005 my brother-in law and I were both diagnosed with a cancer and sadly he passed away five months later.

When I was told I had cancer in April of 2005 I could not believe it.  Who me? An athlete who ate healthy who did not drink or smoke had competed in three Comrades marathons had a lot of ultra- marathons as well as many smaller races under the belt. Oh boy this was just too much. But surprisingly I accepted it so well due to the fact I knew my Lord and Saviour and that through Him I made a promise that I would fight this battle, not alone but with help of my husband, our son and close friends who kept on praying for me.

One night during this time I called out to God and asked Dear Lord how much more could I take! I just could not handle being sick anymore and as I lay on the cold bathroom floor seeking the coolness of the tiles with nausea, a head that felt like it was in the sun too long and a body that ached I had a vision of the Cross. What an answer from God. I realised at that moment how much my Saviour suffered for me and I realised what a wimp I was, here I am moaning and groaning about being sick and yet He suffered much much more than I would  ever feel or take. I asked God to forgive me for complaining and to help me through this ordeal.

A scripture reading that remains my favourite is “I will never leave you are forsake you”  this verse played a major role in my life after that. In that same year my eldest sister was diagnosed with bladder cancer stage 4. She had just buried her husband and now she was told she now has cancer. This was a lot for her children to take in. The memories I have of her is that she fought this battle with courage and strength: no matter how she felt life went on.

On the day she died we were travelling to East London to say our goodbyes to her as she lying dying in hospital. As we got outside East London I got a call to say she had just passed away. I Cried to God why take her now I was so close in spending a few last minutes with her now she gone. But then I remembered that God had given me time with her two weeks prior this. She always reminded me how naughty we twins were setting mom’s wedding dress alight and almost burning the house down. We got a spanking for this.

My mission in life was to get my family saved by acknowledging Jesus as their Saviour. I knew where I was in my walk with the Lord and I needed to know where they were in their walk with Him. She told me “Stellie I know my God I have accepted Jesus as my Saviour and I am ready to go to a place where there will be no more suffering for me anymore”. She was now the eldest sister to pass away from our family. My three older brothers were also diagnosed with early prostrate cancer.

Now I come to one closer to home … wait for it … my husband Theunis who was diagnosed in 2010 with colon cancer. This not only hit me harder but this time it affected our son as well. It was bad enough that mom had to go through cancer and treatment and now his dad has it. He was a scared and angry young man and overwhelmed by it all. I really questioned God. Why did Theunis have to get this big C? He is the bread winner etc how are we going to cope? Why let him get cancer – a guy that does not wrong anyone? He is always giving to the poor or food to the beggers. This was too much!

Theunis and I met after running our first Comrades Marathon 1978 and we married in 1979. It took me to a whole new level of prayer interceding for my husband and deeper soul searching to fine peace and assurance from God that He is close to those who call upon His name and that in time of troubles He will lift you up on wings of eagles you will soar and not grow weary.

Theunis got through the long operation and he was so fortunate that the doctor could cut away the bad part and re-join the colon. The good news was Theunis did not need a bag. What a God we serve. He had to undergo treatment which meant that he would get chemo and today he is still in remission. Dad Botha was diagnosed with cancer and died in 2011. He too had lost his first wife at an early age to breast cancer when my hubby was only a boy of 10 years. To lose a mother at that age was hard for him.

My story does not stop there. After being in remission a year another blow was dealt to me. I now have bladder cancer. The good news was that all I have to do is have a check-up every three months and  if it’s there surgeon will remove it and that is how it is going to be for the rest of my life.

In 2012  I had to go yet for another procedure. This time the left lung as there were markings and the doctors did not want to take a chance. I came out of it well until two weeks later I started to battle with my breathing. X-rays were done and I was told that the lung had collapsed due to air leakage. My real testing came at this time when no matter what the specialist tried, the lung would not take to the lining. I suffered panic attacks and became depressed. I lost weight. At times I felt that if only I could jump out the window all this would be over. I would cry out of sheer frustration and ask God “what now? Why this on top of it all?”

The problem was that here I was attached to pipes and oxygen and nowhere to run I could not take the pipes out as they were there for a purpose. I was scheduled for another operation so that the specialists could found out which hole was leaking. Can you imagine for a moment lying on a bed in ICU, drips and drains attached, and next to you are all the men and women who have just undergone heart surgery. This is not funny. All you see is monitors beeping and going off then you look at yours to make sure your heart is ok. It’s really nerve raking. The lining of my lung was removed and 6 weeks later the lung had improved and I could go home.

I came home to a house filled with close friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. What a surprise. This year both my hubby and myself did the Relay for Life. We were the only two in the team we walked and ran throughout the night to come 4th overall out of all the teams that ran that night. Another feather in our cap.

It is with Faith Hope and Trust  in God that has taken us through all this knowing that He is near to those who call upon His name. He promises us in His word that He will never leave us or forsake us for He is with us in all situations.

When I look back through these last nine years I thank God for His Faithfulness, Love and Mercy that through it all I have become a stronger person relying on Him for inner strength.

Through all this I continue to be a candle in the dark by giving hope to newly diagnosed breast cancer men and women by encouraging them to take one day at a time and to trust in God no matter what life throws at you. To Love God with your whole heart , with all your mind and with all your soul. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. I give Him all the Praise and Glory.

The question I asked you all earlier was “do you think life changes after cancer”?

I would say it does, as one sees life differently and the things that use to be our first priority are no longer first. I would say in my life, God comes first and
the rest can follow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uniquity: No Two Women, Cancer or Journey is the Same

amazing-sunset

What tends to happen is, as noted in our Journey to Joy post, each woman will move through her cycle of emotions  in a way that is completely unique to her – based on her particular life circumstances, the degree of support she has, her personality/emotional style, the type of cancer she has, the type of treatment she needs.

Sometimes we get stuck in one emotion for interminable months – even years. Sometimes we pass through the different emotions quickly and with a degree of relieved ease. Sometimes, we shift into reverse, backing into a stage again if we find we’re not ready for the new emotions, feeling and responses we find ourselves experiencing.

And all of this is normal. It is ok. There is no right way, or wrong way. What must be emphasised is: we must be gentle with ourselves as we try and observe ourselves, almost standing away at an objective distance, as we move within this set of stages, which again – could helpfully be viewed as a journey. So too we must be gentle with those around us who adore and cherish us – who are faced with their own journey and how they’re going to move through their own ones.

What we’re seeing in South Africa is that the vast majority of people being treated for breast cancer do not have access to psycho-social support, nevermind knowing they have a constitutional right to receive support as South African citizens. An effective, equitable breast health policy will ensure that these rights are actively recognised.

We leave you with this:

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

— Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

 

My Journey from Cancer to Laughter

lauging

It’s the week before my 37th birthday.  I’m in hospital, I’m neutropenic, I have an infection second to none on the right side of my chest, where my breast was, where the cancer was.  I’m a stage 2 Cancer patient, halfway through Chemotherapy.  For the first time the reality of my diagnosis hits me…I’m fighting for my life, SHIT!

As a Buddhist, we’re constantly reminded that the time of death is uncertain, that none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow but was I really living my life from that depth? Was I postponing anything?

For two years I’d wanted to be a Laughter Professional, but had thought I’d wait until I’d got the serious business of career and life underway, well now it was dawning on me, that THE time might never come.

For me the journey through 2010, my year of Cancer, became the year I ceased postponing my life, my Laughter, my Joy – I realized at a fundamental level that this Life is to be Lived!

Four years later I am now a Laughter Yoga Teacher & Laughter Coach.  Being a Laughter Professional has been a life changing experience.  I’ve learned to take life and myself less seriously, you see I’m hardwiring my brain for happiness, NOW!

The benefits of Laughter are enormous: it is a positive outlet for stress, allowing the immune system to work at optimum.  Laughter increases blood & oxygen flow throughout the body, it also helps circulate lymph, which alleviates swelling in my right arm.

They say in order to be happy you should do something for someone else:  I run Social Laughter Yoga Clubs, I offer Laughter workshops and trainings, I am passionate about connecting people with their own unique laugh.  Laughter Yoga is practiced as an exercise, you see the body does not know the difference between real and fake laughter, so we start off by fake laughing and it soon becomes real & contagious.  Laughter Yoga was started by Medical Doctor, Dr Kataria in India 1995 and is now practiced in thousands of clubs in more than 74 countries around the world.

Am I saying that Laughter cured my Cancer? NO!  Laughter and a sense of humour helped me through Chemo – Laughter takes your mind off the disease so that the body and the treatments can do their job.

I have found that it is about the quality of my life that is important and being happy, filled with joy and laughter adds a great quality to life.

Norman Cousins in his book, Anatomy of an Illness reminds us that Disease is a great clarifier, we don’t get better just for the sake of getting better, we get better to do something ~ well, Laughter is what I do!

What is it that you do?

More info…

Kate Squire-Howe
@KateSHoweZA on Twitter
Laughter Yoga www.laughteryogasa.org, kate@laughteryogasa.org
Counselling www.posttraumaticgrowth.co.za, kate@posttraumaticgrowth.co.za

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving, and Giving Back.

giveA friend with breast cancer, while still in the middle of her difficult treatment, was already talking about finding ways to ‘give back’ once she felt more herself.
There are so many deeply inspiring stories about of cancer survivors doing just that. Whether it’s a passion for the breast cancer cause, a new empathy for those facing adversity or simply the fresh lease on life one gets from successfully negotiating cancer treatment, cancer survivors are doing wonderfully inspiring things all over the world.
Some are grand gestures – our ladies currently climbing Kilimanjaro for breast cancer awareness for example – and some are less flamboyant, but as vitally important – becoming a patient support volunteer or a helpline consultant.
There’s a big focus on getting active, as women embrace their bodies and their health with renewed appreciation. Dragon Boat racing, marathon running, sponsored walks and climbs are all popular.
There is also a strong trend to challenging oneself, and one’s own perceived abilities. Women are learning to ride motorbikes for charity drives, starting NGO’s to promote awareness and cancer education, or advocating for better treatment programmes and speaking out in communities still very adversely influenced by stigma.
Motivational speaking is one way a lot of cancer survivors are giving back, and simultaneously challenging themselves. Public speaking does not come easily to many of us, but addressing school children, women’s groups, potential funders and medical personnel is never more effective then when done by someone who has faced cancer, and won.
One hears countless stories of survivors who claim cancer ‘brought them out of their shells’, taught them to ‘love life’, ‘empowered’ them to live fully.
There can be no greater way to beat the disease then to take such powerful lessons from your diagnosis, and then use that power to improve the plight of others.
Recommended reading:
http://amabelebelles.co.za/outreach/
http://www.cancervive.co.za/index.html
http://www.journeyofhope.co.za/index.html
http://www.cancerbuddies.org.za
http://www.campaign4cancer.co.za

To Reconstruct or Not?

If the first stage of a mastectomy (or indeed a lumpectomy in many cases), is to surgically dismantle the breast then it follows that the second stage is to reconstruct it again. Or is it?

The decision to reconstruct is a complex and deeply individual one with many factors to consider.

There are various options available for breast reconstructive surgery, some of which start during mastectomy and can include additional procedures post mastectomy.

Viability for surgery most often depends on a patient’s type of cancer and treatment plan or even the side effects of a patient’s treatment. But it also depends on her circumstances. A women’s entire breast reconstruction surgery is not always covered by medical aids in South Africa and can be an expensive and lengthy process.

Some women don’t feel they can face more surgery.

Some feel guilty for putting their families and possibly employers through another period of lessened productivity and recuperation.

Others are sure that reconstruction is the clear path for them, and involve a plastic surgeon from the first talk of surgery.

Still others hold off on deciding for a while, seeing instead how they, and their bodies, adjust to life without breasts before deciding whether to get new ones.

breast-reconstruction-jo-400x400

Sure or unsure, many women are surprised to find appointments with plastic surgeons and discussions around reconstruction to be intimate and discomforting. Some say they were able to talk about their breasts quite objectively while undergoing treatment, but discussing the size and shape of their new nipples with a surgeon feels much more personal.

Many are stumped by the question: ‘How would you like your new breasts to look?’

‘Like they did before,’ is generally the most common answer.

And possibly this is the biggest factor to consider. Are we doing it because we want to reconstruct the ‘Before’? Will straightening the furniture and re-hanging the drapes help us forget an earthquake passed through?

Will new breasts help us heal?

Recommended reading:

http://beingsarahblog.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/no-more-nipple-glue/

http://nancyspoint.com/why-i-did-not-choose-reconstruction-a-guest-post-giveaway-different-kind-of-awareness/

Have you had reconstruction? Decided against it? We’d love to hear your views.

Later this month we will tell the story of someone who chose reconstruction. Would you like us to tell the story of your choice? Send an email to lynne@hippocommunications.com.