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Candice King

My name is Candice King, I am 34 years old. Wife to the best husband Vince, and mother to 2 beautiful daughters Keira 9 and Maria 6

My story with cancer doesn’t begin with me. My beautiful mother was diagnosed with lung cancer in April 2014. It was one hell of a year and sadly we lost her in November. It was such a shock to our family. She was the glue that held us together.

But that was not the only shock to rock my family in 2014. 3 weeks after my incredible mother lost her battle with cancer I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Just before my mom passed away I went for my usual gyane check up, yes the yearly pap and breast check. The one we all put off.
My doctor checked my breast and noticed I had a lump. He asked if I had felt it before and I said I hadn’t. He said because of my age I shouldn’t be too concerned but I can have a mammogram if I feel I want peace of mind. Not only did we find a lump that day but the week of my mom’s memorial I was called back into his office to discuss the pre cancerous cells they had found in my cervix.

The 1st December 2014 is when my world felt like it was spinning out of control. That merri-go-round you want to get off but can’t. I received the news whilst walking out of the hospital after having had a cone biopsy.

When I heard the words “Mrs King you will need to make an appointment with an oncologist” I thought I had heard wrong, there was a loud ringing in my ears and my legs felt like they were crumbling beneath me.

It didn’t register what I had just heard. Me having breast cancer. I sat on the hospital pavement and sobbed my heart out. Once I was home and it finally sunk in; the fear shock wave ran ice cold down my spine. I finally had the realization of what I was about to face.

I phoned the oncologist rooms where we had taken my mom to that same year and made an appointment to see my mom’s oncologist. The next 2 days waiting for that appointment where honestly the worst of my life. The uncertainty, the fear and the unknown is what consumed my husband and I.

Once we had seen the Oncologist I felt more in charge of what I was about to face. I strongly believe that knowledge is power and in this uncertain cancer world to have your facts in place helps you face the unknown.

I was diagnosed with Stage 2b breast cancer. My cancer was hormone receptor positive which means the cancer tested positive for oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones were the driving force behind my cancer. They also suspected it had spread to 3 or 4 lymph nodes under my arm.

I was sitting outside watching my children play in the pool and glanced over at husband and in that very moment I decided that I was going to fight this with all I had in me. I was going to give cancer a run for its money. I had all of that to fight for to grow old, wrinkly and grey with Vince and to see my children grow up and if I could survive cancer teenage girls were a walk in the park.

To take charge I decided to cut my hair before the chemo got the better of me and I had to pull chucks of hair out of my head. So from long blonde hair I cut it into a pixie cut. It was a bonus as I have always wanted to cut my hair short but didn’t have the guts to do it.

I started chemo on the 15th December. I danced with the red devil for 3 months. My hair started falling out before new year’s and so in support of my hair falling out on new year’s day my husband and I put some loud music on got the hair clippers and both shaved our heads to a no 1 while my daughter Keira videoed the whole thing. As much as there were tears there was a lot of laughter too.

I am sure you have all heard the side effects of chemo but the best way I can describe it is like have the biggest hang over of your life that hangs around for 5/6 days the only thing is you never got to have the fun part of partying.

I was lovingly told by my husband that my hair was looking mankey and we need to shave it.  I had a little patch of hair here and a little patch of hair there. So we took the razor and shaved it all off. I was completely bald for some time and the strangest compliment I ever received was “oh but you have such a beautifully shaped head”

But the hardest part of not having any hair is the jaw dropping turn around stair at the lady with no hair I often used to get. Yes I decided that I wasn’t going to wear a wig or scarf and so I understand that people would want to stare at something different but some people took it too far.

But most people were polite and took a little sneaky stare out the corner of their eyes. A funny little story at Madam Zingara one of the waiters asked me if he could lick my head. I was horrified and politely told him no. I also received comments of encouragement from the strangest people like car guards telling me how Jesus would heal me.

The red devils worked their charm and kick some cancer butt. My tumour shrunk that when it came time to having my surgery I was very fortunate that I got to have breast conserving surgery. I really do take my hat off to the brave ladies who have had mastectomies I salute you today.

The next round I tangoed with taxol for another 3 months. I was desperately hoping my hair wouldn’t fall out again but in true chemo style my hair started falling out but this time not all over. I managed to hold on to the hair around the ears and back of the head but the top all fell out so I looked like a balding old man.

I finished chemo and high fived myself for managing to still hang on to my brows and lashes. But oh no Murphy had to step in here and 2 weeks afterwards my last chemo my brows and lashes made a quick dash and left me with 2 puffs of eye brows and stumps as lashes. I must have look beautiful

The last leg of this journey was 6 weeks of radiation. Pffffft a walk in the park I said. Well to say my boob was well done to crispy was a slight understatement. I looked like I had lay in the sun for a solid 6 weeks. My skin was almost black and pealing towards the end. Oh and you aren’t allowed to wash the area either and so towards the end radiation whilst lying with my arms above my head my children kindly asked me to lower my arms as I smelt like bad dog breath. Nothing like a childs honesty.

I can tell you the shower I had after those 6 weeks was the best shower I have ever had. It was a family affair of course with husband taking pictures and children standing over the shower watching me. Yes I know all very strange but this is how we all got through this journey. Every step of the way we did it together, loving and supporting each other, laughing and joking about being bald, or no eye brows or smelling bad, or having to do homework in bed with me while I was so sick.

My youngest daughter Maria thought it was a great idea to share my shower story with her teacher and class as her weekend news. To my horror her words were “my mom got to wash her boobie”. Completely cringe worthy.

Now that I am complete with treatment I will go on a maintenance programme of injections once a month for 2 years which will stop my ovaries from producing oestrogen and tablets for 5 years to stop my cells from absorbing oestrogen. This will essentially put me into an early menopause. Think I should apologise to my hubby now for a grumpy wife for the next 5 years.

I have had the most amazing support obviously from my husband and children, my sister who stepped in as mother when I was bed bound. My incredible friends who never let me for one moment feel like I was the sick girl, sitting on my bed with me having tea parties or making my family dinner. And the beautiful support group which we call the soul sisters. These ladies are the face of bravery each and every one of them having gone through treatment or still going through treatment. They are my daily inspiration.

You really do learn to turn inwards and love yourself for who you are and not what you look like while going through chemo. Having no hair, brows or lashes when I looked in the mirror I almost didn’t recognise myself. This pale, dark ringed person staring back.

This journey is hard on so many levels. Physically your body is being poisoned, you have to get sick to get better. Mentally you are trying your very best to keep your head above water, staying strong. A friend that has had breast cancer told my husband that I should only be allowed 1 pity party per chemo session. And I tell you, he stuck to that and we laughed so much around this too as if I had a second melt down he would say oh no, no you have had your 1 already. The emotional challenge of allowing yourself to feel the sadness, feel the fear but the trick of not letting it consume you because this kind of fear is all consuming.

The message I want to share with all of you today is this disease is not for the old, sick and unhealthy. I was my fittest and healthiest when I was diagnosed. Make sure you look after yourself, eat healthy foods, exercise and try not get too stressed. Do self-breast examinations, go for your yearly check up at the gyane. If we are monitoring ourselves every year the likelihood of catching cancer in its early stages is more possible.

This journey has humbled me yet made me stronger than I could have ever had imagined.

Yes I have had cancer and yes I do have fear that it may one day come back but for right now I am going to enjoy every single moment of my life and make it magical.

Shalom Mkhize


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