Updated 06 April 2017

Free State woman gains new perspective on breast cancer

A young Free State woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer is now optimistic about her chances of survival after initially believing there was no hope.

When Maletsatsi Mokoena was diagnosed with the illness several months ago, she believed her life was over. But a change in perspective has given her new hope, as she has chosen to view her battle against cancer as the start of a new phase in her life.

Diagnosis a miracle

She no longer feels depressed, alone and as though she is dying. She now is embracing her treatment and feels the love and support of the family and friends around her.

Soon after Mokoena turned 25 in August last year she felt a lump in her breast. Being young and healthy, she dismissed it and thought it would go away.

But it didn’t.

Read: SEE: Breast cancer – A lump is not the only sign

“I call my diagnosis a miracle, because it was my aunt who suggested that it might be something serious,” Mokoena said, explaining the older woman’s response when she told her about the lump.

Mokoena’s aunt, Moleboheng Malindi, felt the lump and insisted that Mokoena have it checked out properly, as she believed it could be something that needed treating.

“I asked her of how she knew and she told me that when she once visited the clinic she saw a demonstration on how women should check themselves. But I still thought I was still young for breast cancer,” Mokoena said.

Breast cancer can kill

But her aunt persisted, regularly urging her to see a doctor.

“I finally went after a week and the doctor confirmed what my aunt detected. My mind just went blank. It shut down. I was confused the only thing I was thinking was that the cancer was going to kill me.”

Mokoena did not think about the possibilities of treatment or surgery. She did not talk to anyone and stopped going to work. She had no information, other than the knowledge that breast cancer can kill.

“It took me some time to see the light. I started opening up to my family and friends, and they were there to help, support. They helped me through the confusion I was in and helped me realise that I was not alone,” Mokoena said.

Read: The ABC’s of breast cancer

With her family’s support she returned to the clinic. She was put on chemotherapy and other treatment.

Several months have passed and Mokoena is still going for chemotherapy. She is not yet cancer free, but no longer believes that there is no hope for her.

Support to vulnerable people

"if a person is diagnosed with any chronic illness, treatment can only do so much. It helps to have a positive outlook on life,” said Mokoena, who is determined to beat the illness and survive.

“I have been with Dihlabeng Development Initiative, and they have helped me so much to overcome my fears about my disease. They have given me a lot of support,” Mokoena said.

Read: 'Chemo brain' after cancer treatment may last for months

DDI is a community-based non-profit organisation based in the Free State, providing home-based care to sick people and various other kinds of support to vulnerable people in the community.

Molefi Mogongwa, a counsellor from DDI, said patients needed to accept a medical diagnosis and then take whatever treatment was necessary in order to stand the best chance of survival.

He said denial was not a good strategy in the face of cancer.

“We promote acceptance to people,” he said.

Read More:

Breast cancer outcomes vary according to race

Why breast cancer survivors should exercise

Vitamin D levels may affect breast cancer survival


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