If anyone epitomises the word ‘warrior’, it’s Doreen. A former cook, Doreen has battled three different
types of cancer and had a right breast mastectomy in 2018 following chemotherapy and radiation.
She finished her radiation in 2019.

Doreen’s experience of cancer has not been easy. “Where I live, people shun you if they hear you have cancer, people see it as a death sentence and don’t expect you to come back from hospital or treatment,” she explains. But this seems to have made Doreen even more determined to not be a statistic. “If I hear anyone has cancer, the first thing I always say is, ‘There is treatment and there is hope’.” Doreen’s son, Jabulani, is a paramedic and his mom credits him and his youngest sister, Nontokozo, with being her pillars of strength. “Jabulani would take me to and from the hospital and every single doctor’s appointment, and my daughter was there for me whenever I didn’t feel well, bathing me and feeding me when I needed it,” she says. One of Doreen’s most admirable qualities is that despite having walked such an arduous road herself, she always finds the space to encourage others. “It’s a long process and it’s not easy, but I always tell people not to give up, you have so much to live for.”


In 2020 2.3 million women globally were diagnosed with breast cancer.
Breast cancer most commonly presents as a painless lump or thickening in the breast.
You have a higher risk of breast cancer if you have a close family member (mother,
sister, or aunt) who was diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 50.
Early detection results in an approximately 90% recovery rate.

Sonia’s job as a medical secretary means that she has something of a matter-of-fact relationship
with illness, although she was initially extremely shocked by her diagnosis.

“I received the news on a Friday in August 2013, and I burst into tears immediately. I wasn’t ready to tell my daughters and my mother, who also lives with us, immediately – I needed to process it. I knew they would have so many questions, and to help them understand I would need to know more myself,” says Sonia. Sonia’s treatment journey for an aggressive tumor in her right breast began weeks later, and after four intense chemotherapy sessions, she eventually had a mastectomy in January 2014, followed by further chemotherapy and radiation. Sonia says she is impressed with Miladys silicone breast forms and finds them really comfortable and convenient to use. “I am so pleased that the new breast form both looks and feels like my breast. It is so much lighter than any other prosthesis I’ve worn, so there is no strain on my shoulder,” says Sonia. Now in her seventh year of remission, Sonia credits her family and her faith for the strength she had in the face of cancer. She is now a passionate advocate for the power of sharing one’s story as part of the healing journey. “Early on in my journey, I met a much older woman in the hospital who had undergone a mastectomy many years previously. She showed me her scars and talked me through so much – her message was that ‘there is life after cancer and it was so powerful. I’ll never forget her,” she says. “I had such amazing support from the people around me, from my boss who is a neurosurgeon through to my family, of course, and my church community. My faith is very important to me and that was a huge part of my recovery,” says Sonia. “Something I always say to people is, ‘We often feel like we need to say something when someone has been diagnosed or has had surgery or treatment, but sometimes it’s just your presence that someone needs’. If a person wants to talk, let them. But if they don’t, that’s alright too.”

Jennifer, who has been married to her husband Selvum for 34 years, credits her family with carrying her through one of the most challenging times of her life. A machinist in the clothing industry since the age of 16, Jennifer discovered a fatty lump in her right breast in May 2015. A visit to the factory doctor led her to the hospital and a shock diagnosis after an emergency biopsy. And so began six months of intense chemotherapy.

“From the moment I was diagnosed my husband was my strength, he told me everything was going to be OK,

he nursed me through every session, he was there in the middle of the night,” says Jennifer.
Jennifer’s input into the fit and feel of the silicone breast forms from Miladys has been invaluable. “The silicone is so comfortable and feels great against the skin, with no irritation at all. It’s so light and easy to tuck into a bra and it feels like a realistic match,” says Jennifer. She is particularly pleased with its affordability. “I am so happy with it and it’s incredible that they will be so well priced. The prosthesis I had before cost R2500 and weighed 800g. It was so heavy and uncomfortable.”
Much of Jennifer’s emotional healing happened at a local cancer support group. “I joined the Al Ansaar Cancer Support Group in Durban – we met (and still do meet) once a month to listen to speakers, receive advice, share stories and support each other – they are incredible,” she says of the non-profit organisation that helped bring her ‘back to life’. Jennifer has been able to harness her traumatic experience to help others, bravely sharing her story and recently acting as a support for a friend who was also diagnosed. “Cancer taught me so much, I am not afraid of life and I live every day to the fullest.”

If a family member or friend has been diagnosed with breast cancer or is undergoing treatment,
here is what you can do to help.

Offer to go along on doctor’s visits:
Check if she’d like someone to accompany her to doctor’s appointments and offer to take notes.
Often if a person is feeling stressed it is difficult to remember what a doctor is saying.

Get practical:
Ask her what chores you can take on. Offer to take her children to school or to extramural activities.
See if she needs a lift to and from treatments, or if you can do her monthly shop for her.

Deliver food:
Tell her you’ll drop off a meal on a specific night of each week.
But first check what meals her family enjoy and if they have any special dietary requirements.
Then take a ready to heat-and-eat meal every Wednesday, for example.

Make time to listen:
Right now, the most important thing you can do is listen. Let her share her concerns and fears –even her anger.
Let her know it is OK to feel this way and that you do not judge her. Tell her she can call you any time of day or night if she needs to vent.

Pass on contacts:
If you know someone else who has also survived breast cancer. ask her if she’d like you to put them in touch.
Talking one-on-one with someone who has been through something similar can be extremely helpful.

Make a note of appointment dates and milestones:
Make a note in your diary of treatment days, and remember to call or send messages of encouragement to your friend.
Knowing someone else is walking your journey with you is very comforting.

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