Breast cancer support

Cancer survivors Galiema Hendricks and Gadieja Kasu.

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month draws to a close, doctors, cancer survivors and organisations are providing support met to break the stigma attached to the illness.

Dr Kutlwano Khumalo, from pharmeceutical giant Roche, opened the discussion at SunSquare Hotel last Tuesday, October 22, by commending cancer survivors for overcoming their fight.

Oncologist Dr Irene Boeddinghaus who alternates between Vincent Pallotti and Christiaan Barnard hospitals, said her career path was “satisfying on two fronts” and while she found it to be interesting and said it was on the cutting edge of science but she also enjoyed “meeting amazing women.”

“There might be a cure for cancer, however, there is not a single oncologist who has cured every single one of their patients, unfortunately we lose some, we must remember that death is also a part of life,” said Dr Boeddinghaus.

She said one of the biggest misconceptions or stigmas attached to breast cancer is when the cancer returns at an advanced stage.

“Advanced cancer these days is curable, thanks to all the amazing medication that has come to the market,” she said.

Dr Boeddinghaus said cancer is becoming more of a chronic condition where people lead prolonged quality lives.

She said that women need to learn how to do proper breast self-examinations because there are so many cases where lumps are found by mistake.

“I always hear patients say they were either taking a shower, grabbing something from the bedside table or hugging someone.”

StephanievanDeventer, national manager of breast cancer support NGO Reach for Recovery, said emotional and practical support is provided to those battling cancer. The organisation is run by volunteers who are all cancer survivors.

“Women often don’t know what to do after undergoing a mastectomy, hence we have victors who know exactly what they are going through to help them,” she said.

She said state patients do have access to good quality prosthesis – all they need is a hospital card.

Bernadette Romburgh was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 at the age of 39. Her cancer was genetic as it took her mother’s life at the age of 44.

“After my biopsy I definitely knew I had breast cancer,” she said.

She said while the experience was scary she managed to learn to bear chemotherapy.

She has had breast reconstruction surgery.

“The process of coming out of being a cancer patient was tedious,” she said.