Dreaded disease can be overcome

When Zandile Leshoro, 40, was diagnosed with breast cancer five year ago, she thought her life had come to an abrupt end.

When Zandile Leshoro, 40, was diagnosed with breast cancer five year ago, she thought her life had come to an abrupt end.

Hurt and confused, Leshoro lived her life in tears for weeks until she realised she had to do something to save herself from this deadly but curable disease.

Leshoro shares the story of her journey of survival and her determination to beat the bone cancer that was discovered after a breast was removed.

"In 2002 I discovered a lump in my breast. I ignored it. I thought it was going to disappear after some time. I didn't worry about it because it was not painful.

"In 2003 I got worried when I kept on feeling the lump. Then one day I heard a radio campaign about breast cancer and decided to go for a check-up.

"I was still not scared when the doctor referred me to hospital for tests. There, they did all sorts of tests, including a mammogram and biopsy, and I waited a month for the results. When I went for the results I was told I had breast cancer. To say that I was shocked is an understatement. Still in that state of confusion, the doctor told me the cancer was in advanced stages and that I had to have an operation to remove my breast. They told me to make bookings for a bed immediately. I just sat there, stunned. I felt my world crumbling down on me. I was sure I was going to die. All I knew about cancer was that it kills. I thought that even if they removed my breast I would still die. It all became too much and I sank into depression. I cried for weeks. I first broke the news to my then fiance who has been my pillar of strength since.

"One day my boss saw me crying at work and asked what was wrong. When I told him, he encouraged me to go for a second opinion. He made me an appointment to see a specialist. The cancer was confirmed. There, I got proper counselling for the first time. I was told that cancer was not a death sentence. The doctor said, with treatment and if detected early, cancer can be cured. He said removing the breast should be the last option. I then started chemotherapy. It was horrible. I felt sick for weeks every time I had the treatment. When I started losing my hair I felt even more depressed. After three treatments I decided to stop chemotherapy. I couldn't take any more. I felt it was better to die than go through that. For two years I stopped. It was during this time that I told my family I was sick.

"In 2005, after my fiance and I got married, we decided that it was better to remove the breast. I went for check-ups again, this time at a private clinic because I was now on medical aid. I was advised that it was better to remove the breast to ensure that the cancer did not spread to other parts of my body.

"Last year I booked myself into the clinic and had the operation. Going home the next day knowing a part of my body had been removed got to me but with the support from my husband, my family and my in-laws I remained strong.

"I continued with chemotherapy after the operation until doctors told me they could not detect cancerous cells around the breast area.

"It was during a routine test that doctors discovered the cancer had spread to the bones. I am now taking treatment for the bone cancer and am confident that I'll beat this one too.

"I feel much better, but there are days when my entire body aches. I know I will survive."