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Ronicka Sirputh

My name is Ronicka Sirputh

and this is my story...

It all begin in the latter part of 2016 when I noticed something amiss on my right breast, I showed it to a friend but we both just laughed it off at the time, as it felt like a ball. I remember saying to my friend I had a ball on my breast, I never for one moment thought it was a lump or could be anything other than a ball. I remember my friend saying to me that I needed to have it checked out but I never saw the importance to it at the time.

It was right on the surface of my right breast and I felt it each time I bathed or had to lotion myself. Then in November 2016,I decided it was time to check what this really was and as I work for a University we had a department of radiology to which I went to and did an ultrasound, I remember being calm and happy and making conversation with the trainee radiologist rather than concentrating on my examination, she said to me at that point it looks as if it’s a build-up of dense tissue but as she is not a doctor I should take the printouts to my doctor. I went home with ultrasound and said I will take it to my doctor but just never got around to doing it.

Throughout December I suffered with intense back pain (this was in no way related to my cancer) but to this day I believe that it was a sign from GOD that this needed to checked out. I went to see my GP on the 04th January 2017 who referred me to a neurosurgeon, Dr Neermala Dasi who I saw the next day, she then agreed to admit me in hospital as she needed to get cause of the intense pain I was feeling. I was booked to be admitted in hospital on the 09th January 2017. On the 09th I had an MRI done and there was no apparent cause to the lower back pain, I was given pain meds and told to rest. At that point I felt as I was already in hospital I might as well get my right breast checked out so I asked her if that was possible, she then referred me to Dr Deena Govender a general surgeon for further assessment. He sent me for blood tests, a mammogram and an ultrasound which came back inconclusive, he then suggested that we do a biopsy to be absolutely sure, which we did and I was told that the results would only be available on the 17th January 2017, at that time to me that was just a date, never did I ever imagine that this day would change my life forever. At no point during my entire examination/medical procedures did it even cross my mind that the lump I found was cancer, I really believed that it was just dense tissue and remember saying to my surgeon jokingly please take this lump out asap so I can get out of hospital asap. I was discharged from hospital on the 11th January and asked to return to the doctors rooms on the 17th January. If I am being totally honest with myself I did not think I had cancer, I was not the least bit worried whilst waiting for the results. On the morning of the 17th I actually drove myself to the hospital as everyone around me was tense and I was the only one that was calm. My mum wanted to go with me but I remember leaving without telling anyone that I was going as I was sure that I had nothing to worry about.

When I reached the doctors rooms the receptionist Renee, a lovely lady who looked at me as if she wanted to hug me, I didn’t realise it at the time but only put together the pieces after a while, sent me straight in to see the doctor, I greeted him with a smile, he did not look happy at all, Dr Deena Govender is a doctor with the warmest heart, he couldn’t have broken the news to me in a more gentler way, when he said to me those dreaded words, I’m sorry my girl “you have cancer”. I did not react. I sat there and then he told me not to worry as we were going to get it removed. I remember him telling me about the procedure that I was to undergo to have the lump removed, and also to extract lymph nodes for testing, I said to him do what you need to do and I walked out. I walked out and that’s when the receptionist Renee met and asked me if I was alone and if there was anyone that she could call to come and fetch me and she kept reassuring me that everything was going to be ok. It did not register to me I kept telling her that everything was ok and that I am ok but I did not cry not once throughout this whole journey because I had cancer.

I had been chatting to a friend before I went to the doctor so I remember replying to that message that “sorry but I have cancer” and then put my phone aside and drove home which was about 20 minutes away. I walked in and then broke the news to my mum and aunt that was home. I did not cry or show any emotion but rather asked them to give me space to deal with the news that I had just heard, I myself did not know how to process it. No one around could believe what they were hearing. I am the youngest of 3 kids, I have an older brother and a sister, my brother mum and I live together, my sister married at the time lived with her husband and 3 kids in Gauteng, my dad passed away in 2012 and to date that was the biggest tragedy of all our lives, losing my dad. No one could believe that me being 36, could have cancer, they all believed that there may have been an error someone made a mistake. I for one accepted cancer, everyone around me became emotional, I come from a very close knit family and relatives from far and wide had been calling non stop and visiting, to them at that point they really felt that this was the end of my life, they were too emotional for me to be around. I needed space. I took the time needed put away from cellphone and asked for space and not see or speak to anyone until I had time to process what cancer was.

I knew nothing about cancer, I knew it existed but I never took the time to educate myself about what cancer really was. No one on both sides of family ever had cancer before, this was a first in our family and therefore no one knew what to expect.

I was scheduled to have a lumpectomy and lymph node removal surgery on the 22nd January 2017 and Dr Deena Govender was my surgeon. I underwent my procedure with no hassles and was a complete success after the operation he told me that there was good news and this has not spread and it was all removed with the lump and at that point I was cancer free, I was happy but had no idea that the worst was yet to come. At this point I had not yet seen an oncologist so had no idea what was to come. I was in a lot of pain but kept reassuring myself that the worst is over and I no longer have cancer. Throughout this I had the support of my family which is what really helped me through. My mum was by my side through it all.

Two days after my operation I was sent home to recover. About a week later, what happened was one of the most traumatising experiences of my life, the site where the lump was removed became infected where an abcess formed and on the 31st January 2018 that abcess burst, my breast size had increased to 3 times in size and the pain I felt was unbearable. I really felt that I was about to collapse. I was rushed to hospital and Dr Govender was summoned, but the bleeding from the abcess just wouldn’t stop it kept flowing which became a major concern and I was rushed in for an emergency operation to stop the bleeding, I had to be cut on the same operation spot which was not fully healed but thank god they were able to stop the bleeding and clean out the infected site.

I was discharged two days later and was then refereed to my oncologist whom I love to bits, his name is Dr Riaz Mall. I couldn’t have chosen a better doctor myself. When I had gone to see him I again had no idea what was in store for me as I believed that the cancer was gone and if there was to be chemotherapy it would be minimal and not so invasive. I am one who is always positive and therefore felt very positive about this visit. I walked in with all the hope in the world and walked out the rooms feeling like my whole world came crashing down. My doctor explained how every patient that has breast cancer is different and that there are no two people that have the same diagnosis. He explained that I had Stage 2 cancer, Triple Negative. Now every cancer is bad, but triple negative is the worst as there is no cause and doctors cannot determine what has caused it or triggered the cancer, which in turn means not knowing what has caused it, will not be able to find a treatment to treat the cancer. He also explained that triple negative is a very aggressive cancer and can spread very quickly and he explained the statistics regarding the mortality rate. Can you imagine my disbelief at this point as I really believed that the worst was over. My doctor quickly calmed me down and explained to me that I would undergo the worst type of chemotherapy a 6 month course but it had to be done due to the aggressive type of cancer which I was diagnosed with. For the first 3 months I would undergo one treatment every 3 weeks due to the nature and severity of the chemo the time interval could not be any more than 3 weeks. And then for the last 3 months I would go every week. Bloodtests to be done every week to see if my body could handle the chemo. He explained all the side effects to me and the changes my body would go through. I would lose every inch of my hair one of my most prized possessions I loved my hair always. All of what I had just heard was too much for me to handle I was shattered but again I had my mum by my side through it all she came to me to every chemo session and sat there for 4 hours at a time while I was given the chemo through an IV drip. 12 rounds of chemo in total in a space of 6 months. My mum was really my pillar of strength through my whole journey. I remember there being times when I was really sick but I decided to stay strong because I never wanted to break her by showing her that I was sick, I felt that me having cancer had put her through a huge amount of stress and I didn’t want her to look after me as I felt that it was my job to look after her and not the other way around.

Lucky for me the company I worked for was quite understanding I requested for things to be as normal as possible so my work hours were adjusted and only went in on days when I was well and could make it to go. I felt going to work when I could would keep my mind off things.

Chemo was hard on me really hard, losing my hair was too liberating so on the 22nd February 2017 was the day I started my first chemo I decided to shave of all my hair and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. It was not ideal but I accepted it as part of my journey. My nails were affected very badly, they all lifted off the nail bed. During this time my family had to endure more tragedy on the 14 June 2017, my brother in law, sisters husband passed away at the age of 44 from a brain aneurysm. this hit our family hard. This was the hardest thing to deal with at the time. I still underwent all my chemo sessions and on the 02 August 2017 was my last chemo. Having lost an immediate member of my family I did not celebrate the end of my chemo. But was really grateful to God for seeing me through that time.

The next step in my journey was radiation on the operated site, that was a 6 week treatment everyday for 6 weeks, ten minutes long where they would burn the affected site, this was not easy to say the least, but once again I pulled up the courage and made it through. And on the 17th October 2017 was the end of my treatment journey. I was happy. I felt relieved and thanked GOD on that day so many times so seeing me through it all, I had lost friend who were with me on the same journey, so I know how lucky I was to come out of all this.

The side effects were all bad, there were times when I could not look at myself in the mirror, I really did not recognise the person in the mirror, but quickly reassured myself that this was all temporary and one day it will be better, I never once thought that I was dying.

I always say yes cancer CHOSE me, but it was me who CHOSE to defeat cancer I’m not a cancer survivor, I am a THRIVER, I will use this experience to thrive from what it has taught me. I would really like to use my experience to encourage others in my position and help them overcome as I know how overwhelming this can be and if you not grounded strongly you can crumble. The important thing to remember here is to stay positive, have a strong mindset and become your very own cheerleader, you always got to remind yourself that “you got this”. this is very much a self-healing journey. As much as others who care will be there and offer you support, they cannot heal you, only you can.

I have definitely grown as a person, i see life in a different light. I value people more now and yes it has also shown what true care is all about. Without the love of my friends and family I would have not made it through, I had my very own army encouraging me through it all.

As I never got the chance to say this before,
To my mum, I owe my life, what you have seen your child go through is not easy and I will forever be grateful for that.
To my brother, sister, late brother in law and my 3 nephews your love is what carried me through it all. The support I received from extended family was also very overwhelming which I will be forever grateful

My journey is over thus far but I have to just stay positive, for the next 5 years I will continue going for my regular check up but I do have faith that one day all will be well...

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