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Mawisa Chauke (Breast Cancer Survivor)

Mawisa Chauke (Breast Cancer Survivor)

Symptoms and diagnosis

I was diagnosed with stage three triple-negative breast cancer in 2019 and was 30 years old then. I didn't even know anything about negative breast cancer. Its an aggressive kind of breast cancer that affects a lot of young people. But it responds well to treatment.

Before the diagnosis, I felt pain and a lump on my left breast. I thought maybe it was due to a very tight bra. But that lump started to grow bigger. So I went to the doctor. This is how I found out that I had breast cancer. I was not emotionally fine. I thought I was still young for this kind of cancer and was worried about who was going to take care of my child. But I was also strong enough to say that I'm not going to die. I've seen my mom go through the same thing. Although she was 40 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. This gave me some hope to say that I am going to make it too.

Treatments underwent and side effects

I went through chemotherapy for six months. This was followed by radiation therapy which lasted around six weeks. And then, surgery was performed on my breast. They took out the tumor from my left breast. They also took out a part of another breast so that both of them were of the same size. I also took female therapy. I didnt try any alternative treatment and only went through all the prescribed treatments.

Side effects were weakness, loss of hair, and change of skin color. Managing and going through the side effects was not easy. But I just told myself to accept them as there's nothing that I can do. When I was losing my hair, I embraced being bald. Luckily, I can do a bit about the skin changes. I consulted my doctor regarding my skin brightness and itchiness. They gave me a lotion for my skin which helped. So, I learned to accept things that I couldn't change.

Support system

My family was hurt and was not expecting cancer. I was the one that was expecting that. The day that I was diagnosed with cancer, my family members were shattered. My mom was in pain. She thought she was the last one to get this kind of cancer. They were hurt, but they were also supportive. I didnt have any other support system besides my family and kept it within the family. I don't like to disclose because people who came to know usually turned away. Some of my friends were there for me while others were not. Also, my son, who didn't understand what was going on, was my support too.

Experience with medical staff

The medical team was there for me and prioritized me. They made sure that I received everything on time. They also ensured that I was treated well. My oncologist, my breast surgeon, and the nurses at the oncology centre were there for me. They were like a family to me during the treatment.

Finding joy

My cancer journey made me realize a lot of things. It also made me a stronger person. It also made me realize that life is too short. Just in a blink of an eye, you can just lose your life. I learned to appreciate life and appreciate everyone around me. I learned to love more than hate. It made me laugh more now. I also realized that I have to be happy at all times and avoid things that will make me feel sad.

Message to cancer patients and caregivers

Cancer fighters don't have to lose hope and should appreciate when love and support is given to them. You should embrace everyone who is there for you. Caregivers have to support cancer survivors or cancer fighters because love heals cancer. Cancer made me understand that people love me and I can conquer cancer. So caregivers have to be there for those people and support cancer fighters and survivors, because cancer is a lifetime thing. For instance, I'm still going through the checkups. I still need support. I still need my family to tell me that I am going to be fine every time.

Lifestyle changes

Instead of going out and having fun, I do exercise or listen to music. I didnt do exercises before. But I adopted a healthier lifestyle, like exercising and trying to eat healthily. Although it's not easy, I'm trying my best.

Positive changes

Cancer has changed me a lot. It has made me find positivity in everything. So instead of delving into negativity, it has instilled a lot of positivity in me and I am more positive than ever before.

Importance of joining a support groups

It is necessary to join support groups, especially when you are not familiar with the process. You need to learn more from other people. In the support groups, you can share your experiences, feelings, and side effects. I didn't join any because I've seen my mom going through the same journey. I've learned a lot from her journey. I was emotionally stronger. I said that I'll defeat this. So I didn't see any need on my side. But people need to join support groups and share their journey. 

Cancer awareness

I'm from a village where there are a lot of stigmas attached to cancer. There is a lack of information and even misinformation about cancer. So, I started an NPO to educate more people. There is a lot of awareness that has to be spread in my village about breast cancer. When you talk about cancer, everyone thinks you're talking about death. When you've been diagnosed with cancer, it's like you're going to die. Some people distance themselves from someone diagnosed with cancer. So much work needs to be done to uplift this stigma.

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