Discovering she had breast cancer was a shock. Then came radical surgery and chemotherapy. But she survived.
Former Miss SA Wilma van der Bijl (43) talked about her battle with breast cancer and her double mastectomy in You and Huisgenoot.
In the article, she spoke about the disease that turned her world upside down, made her see life in a different light, and taught her to make the most of every day.
Early detection is so important
A mammogram can detect breast cancer in its early stages, as was the case with Wilma. This can increase a patient's chance of successful treatment.
"A mastectomy is like an amputation – a part of your body is sacrificed," said Wilma, who isn't even in a high-risk group for cancer.
"I don't have a family history of cancer. I've never smoked or used hormonal contraception. I breastfed my children, I'm not overweight and I lead a healthy lifestyle."
Wilma admits that there were difficult times. "The treatment made me feel helpless and despondent. It was a long, stretched-out process. At times, I got extremely depressed."
On other days, she counted her blessings. "You go to hospital, to the oncology ward, where you see other people battling cancer. Then you realise how lucky you actually are."
During the difficult times, her husband Ari made things a lot easier. "He made me feel that my breasts and my hair weren't important – only the fact that I should get better."
Wilma has a special message to women who have to undergo a mastectomy: "Breast cancer isn't a death sentence. You are going to feel sad and scared, but you are very lucky that it was detected early enough to be treated. We should be worried about those women in whom it hasn't been detected."