Meesha Naidoo Brave & Beautiful Ambassador
- Breast Cancer
YOU ARE POWERFUL!
"Your power lies in your ability to turn your journey into whatever you still imagine it to be. It's never too late or too early! You are limitless, fearless and priceless! You were born this way, but may have been scripted differently. You need to believe in your inner power, if you don't you will never be able to express it!"
I am a mother to two precious children (my girls) Navania (age 16 years) and Nerissa (age 9 years).
I am a wife to my dear husband- Donney.
I am a child to my dear parents.
I am Meesha Naidoo and I am a Breast Cancer Survivor.
This is my journey in Gods book called "LIFE".
The year 2015... Age 37 years ... I had German measles with a high fever for 7 days which affected my joints and made my body extremely sore. I remember lying in bed and gently pressing my chest and ribcage. I felt a small lump (the size of a little bean) just under my breast. It was painless so I didn't think much of it. I was still recovering from the German measles and thought that it could have developed due to my body change and would soon go away.
The year 2016... We had just lost my dear mother-in law. It was a painful experience and affected us all. She was the rock in our family and kept us all together. We missed her dearly.
This lump just didn't want to disappear. I knew it was there but it was painless, so I thought it was not serious. I did think about the possibilities...but I still couldn't tell my family. We all were trying to heal in our own comforting ways. My girls loved their granny and missed her a lot. Donney tried to keep it together but I could feel his pain.
I confided with my dear friend Yvette, who educated me about Breast Cancer. I laughed at her and told her that its nothing because its just a painless lump. My only concern was that it started growing a bit. I remember her telling me.. "Meesha, please go have it checked. It could be nothing or if it is something, there are different stages and if you catch it early, then its treatable" I told her again "I don't feel sick but maybe I should check just for peace of mind". At that point I thought to myself (I have two girls. How selfish could I be? I need to find out and have peace of mind). I kept on thinking about the possibilties and it started to get to me, but I still couldn't tell anyone. I didn't want anyone getting worried and concerned about me as we all were still dealing with the loss of my mother-in law.
I waited a week after Donneys birthday and decided to have a check-up. I went to Dr B Naidoo in Umhlanga and he did a physical check. He immediately told me that I would need to have it properly checked.
I was shocked and terrified and asked him "Why should I be concerned as it was not sore" and another concern was that I did not have Medical Aid. Dr Naidoo gave me two choices , go to Addington Hospital with a referral letter or go to Dr P Reddy. I kept on telling myself that it was nothing to worry about. I chose to go to Dr P Reddy privately.
Now, it really started to get to me. I still didn't tell anyone. I thought to myself that I would do it on my own and not get anyone concerned over nothing. Little did I know that the year 2016 would be the most testing year for me this far.
Lunch break sitting in my car...
I phoned my sisters Samantha and Kim and broke down completely. My body went into a state of shock. I feared the worst. I couldn't keep this secret anymore and phoned Donney. It broke me completely to make Donney feel my pain but I needed his support.
My appointment was booked on a Saturday to see Dr Pramod Reddy at the "Surgical Screening" on Umhlanga Rocks Drive. Donney and I sat patiently in the warm reception area. Dr Reddys receptionist ( Sarah Govender) made us feel very comfortable while waiting. We were greeted by a soft spoken, humble gentleman Dr Pramod Reddy and asked to come in. Dr P Reddy did a consultation and an ultra-sound and recommended that I do a mammogram. I felt a bit re-assured. Oh how I hated that machine, my first mammo and it felt like it squeezed the life out of my small breasts. An ultrasound was done again and showed a mass and also a bit of darkening on one of my lymph nodes. The kind doctor explained to me that a biopsy had to be done. Fear overwhelmed us and Donney and I cried all the way back home.
My biopsy was booked on a Monday. I was terrified so I cancelled it. Yes , just like that! I wasn't ready for all this! Sarah called me to rebook my biopsy, I remember telling her that I was not well (which was actually a lie). After much thought I built up the courage and rebooked on that Thursday. Fear overwhelmed me as I walked into Dr Reddys rooms with my dear sister-in laws (Chantel and Kalay). Dr. Reddy and his assistant (Mary-Anne) calmed me down and eventually I felt a bit more relaxed. I remember Dr Reddy asking me if I cancelled my appointment because I was trying to run away (Lol, I guess he knew the truth).
My heart pounded and tears were uncontrolable as Dr Reddy performed a Core Biopsy (Tissue sample of lump). I was told to come back on Monday for results as it was the long weekend. The wait was absolute torture.
Monday Morning, overwhelmed with fear again, Dr Reddy gave me my results. " Stage 2 Breast Cancer". Within a split second, my whole life had changed. I sat there frozen, unable to cry, unable to absorb anything that Dr Reddy spoke about. Chantel had to be my ears. He explained my treatment plan which was 6 X Chemotheraphy ( 1 every 3rd week) a mastectomy and tamoxifen ( hormone blocking pill) for 10 years. He also explained that the chemotheraphy would be the most aggresive and that I would lose my hair.
I sat there shocked and asked Dr Reddy "Where to now?" As I did not have Medical Aid. Dr Reddy explained to me that he would put me into good hands and that I would have to go to Addington Hospital first, thereafter all treatments would be done at Albert Luthuli Hospital. Dr Reddy promised me that I would be fine and those reassuring words of his kept me focused and strong during the toughest months that I was about to endure.
Working at Umhlanga Medisport Pharmacy,my boss Mr Fraser and staff supported me a lot. I was introduced to one of the most inspiring woman I have ever met- Sharon Van Straaten (Stage 4 Cancer Survivor) and founder of Pink Phoenix Cancer Foundation. Dear Sharon prepared me mentally, physically and emotionally for this battle.
Albert Luthuli Hospital... I was introduced to a panel of doctors. Dr Reddy had placed me into the best hands , Dr Ines Bucchimaza ( Head Surgeon of Breast Clinic), Dr Yvonne Brakovski (Plastic Surgeon) and a team of the best doctors to discuss my treatment plan. After many scans (Pet Scan, Lung Scan, Heart Scan, MRI scan etc), Blood tests and many other procedures,my first chemo was booked.
I remember waking up that morning, scared but ready to fight. My first "Red Devil" a one and a half hour IV drip. Ice cold poison burning through my veins. After 10 days of my first chemo, my hair began to fall . It was absolutely horrific so I decided to shave it off completely which was less stressful.
Each chemo broke me completely. My mind had no control over my body. The vomiting was uncontrollable along with the other harsh side effects. Chemo kills all the dividing cells in your body which made my tongue, fingernails and toenails turn black. I was man down for a week, unable to drink or eat. My body felt like a puzzle, broken into a million pieces. Eventually I would pick myself up and rebuild the puzzle pieces, only to prepare my body to be broken down again. I felt like a little child, broken...my thoughts were mostly of childhood memories, happiness, where I longed to be in my mommys arms, safe,wishing for her to hold me tight against her chest and telling me that all will be alright.
It broke me to make my precious children watch me become helpless during my chemo days. Navania instantly became a mother figure to Nerissa during my toughest days and when I look back, it makes me so proud to watch her become a responsible young woman. After each chemo, I used to give myself a weeks break then pick myself up and go to work. Forcing myself to go to work made me feel normal again and made me forget about the tortue I had endured every third week.
After 5 months of chemo, it finally ended. My tumour had shrunk. I was relieved and ready for the next step. My operation (a lumpectomy) was booked for February 2017.
January 2017... I felt alive and even more positive. I received a call from the Genetic sister (Albert Luthuli Hospital).
Little did I know that I would be tortured again. The news I received broke me completely (it felt worse than having chemo). Genetic test results- Positive- Carrier of the BRCA1 Gene. I broke down after hearing this dreadful news. My concern was having two girls would put them at risk. I was upset and weak. My motherly instinct kicked in and I asked God to torture me but please don't allow any harm to fall onto my children. Dr Bucchimaza called me that day and calmed me down and also explained that my procedure for the operation would have to change from a lumpectomy to a Bilateral Masctectomy (removal of both breasts). She also explained that carrying the gene put me at a higher risk, so as a preventative, a full Hysterectomy would have to be done later.
1 March 2017...a six hour operation, a Bilateral mastectomy, removal of axillary node (total of 15 lymph nodes) and immediate reconstruction. I remember waking up the next morning, drowsy (high on morphine) , 3 drains attached to my body (which horrified me) and 2 brand new breasts. I was in hospital for 10 days and it took me 4 weeks to recover.
I am now on Exemestane and Zoladex(hormone blocker- which puts me into early menopause) as it was discovered that the tamoxifen did not work for me. I have regular visits with Dr Brakovski (my plastic surgeon) whose done a great job with my saline implants (they known as Tissue expanders where saline is injected allowing skin to expand).
I have 2 more operations to go- my procedure for permanent silicone implants which is booked later this month in December and a full hysterectomy to follow.
This disease called "Cancer" waits for no one. It doesn't choose colour, it doesn't choose age, it doesn't choose gender, it doesn't choose religion, whether you healthy or not, fat or thin, rich or poor... it waits for no one, but through it all, in some strange way, this disease called" Cancer", has the power to unite us all.
For now...I'm loving LIFE. The challenges that my family and I have faced together, have made us much stronger. I have learnt to step back...and just appreciate the simple things in life and stop stressing. What's meant to be, will be... And just leave it in Gods hands.
In this journey called "LIFE", everything you need, your courage, strength, compassion and love, everything you need is already within you..because what makes you weak...only makes you STRONGER!!!
Thank you to all- My wonderful FAMILY, for being a part of my journey, for the unconditional love and support through my toughest days (much appreciated), to my friends , work collegues, and all those amazing cancer warriors (Yes! There is always hope), to the dedicated and passionate doctors and nurses.To Sean Baker Photography- Thank you for capturing my special memories which I will always treasure, to Pam McNeil for transforming me with your special touch, to the Shree Mariamman Temple for such warm hospitality and a special "Thank you" to Sharon Van Straaten (Pink Phoenix Cancer Foundation) for giving me the opportunity to share my story. May God bless you all!!!