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Nomalanga Sibeko is a Principal Specialist: FP & A Consumer B, Finance Planning & Analysis at Vodacom. She was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year at the age of 34. When we asked her if she would like to share her story with us, she gladly agreed and said that her desire and hope was that her story would enlighten others.
When were you diagnosed?
I noticed a lump in my breast around September/ October last year, which I wanted to have checked out when I went for my pap smear and yearly check-up with my gynaecologist. It wasn’t the first lump I’d had, but the other one had disappeared. This one didn’t though, so I was a little concerned, but not overly worried. As a result, I kept moving my appointment due to work commitments and motherly duties. A message that I would like to spread to everyone is that we all need to take time and pause, regardless of how hectic life may be. I eventually made it to my appointment at the end of January this year and was diagnosed on February 12th.
What has your treatment experience been like?
Very different. I was not only dealing with the cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments, but there was the Covid-19 pandemic too. So there were challenges like not having visitors when I was in the hospital for surgery. My family and friends were not able to come to visit me, and so I was alone in the treatment rooms during chemotherapy as only patients were allowed.
The recovery time of the initial breast surgery, which is called a bilateral mastectomy, was quite long and very painful. Added to that was the exhaustion after chemotherapy, which would last for days after. The treatment also effectively placed me in early menopause, so I have been dealing with hot flushes amid the pain. Another side effect is insomnia. In short, the treatment experience is not something I would want to repeat. I’m currently still undergoing treatment.
What was your perception of cancer before being diagnosed?
I always believed that it could never be me, especially since I do not have a family history of cancer and I’m young. Even after a close friend was diagnosed two years ago at the age of 32, it wasn’t anything I thought could happen to me.
Why did you decide to share your story with us?
I have decided to tell my story to raise awareness to many others like myself who take these things for granted. So I have since started a foundation called LetLove with my friend so that we can tell our stories to raise awareness and give a helping hand to those undergoing treatment.
Who is part of your support structure?
My husband was my main supporter during this time as my chauffeur, chef, and nurse at times. He has been so amazing and stood in the gap for all the family and friends that could not come to visit me due to Covid19 and lockdown regulations.
My family, friends, boss, colleagues, and church family may have been physically far, but thanks to technology, that brought them closer. The love I have been receiving has been so tangible and they have been there walking the journey with us every step of the way. I have been bombarded with so much love from everyone in my circle. It has been a journey of love.
How has this experience changed the way you look at life?
It doesn’t matter what happens to you, it is how you respond that matters. Always take time to pause. I am very intentional about loving, giving, and leaving this world a better place than I found it and that has led to the birth of LetLove.