Two months before the diagnosis, while taking a shower, I felt a lump in my breast. I thought it was hormonal so I decided to give it a month or so to see if it would disappear. One month later, the lump was still there and so I had a mammogram done and, on advice from the doctor, I got a biopsy done too. The result, breast cancer! I was horrified and distraught! I was advised to see the doctor before the end of that month to discuss the next course of action. I did not want to die and I kept thinking about my children as I wanted to be there to see them grow.
I had read about the DIEP flap reconstruction where they take a flap of skin plus whatever else is used to reconstruct a breast and this could be done immediately after a mastectomy. I could not imagine being one-breasted though of course I would not opt to keep it if it meant I would die.
I consulted various doctors for a second and third opinion; the first consultation was with a pathologist who did the test, then an oncologist who informed me that there was possibility of saving my breast. Through the oncologist I was directed to a surgeon, who checked and concurred with the diagnosis. To know if the cancer had spread to other parts of my body, I had to get bone scan and chest x-rays done. Thankfully, it was in just that one lump and in some of the nodes in my armpit.
On 29 September I got the results of the blood count, the red blood cell and haemoglobin count were within normal range, however the white blood cell count which was at 1.76 was below the recommended 3 required before commencing chemotherapy treatment. I needed the cells to multiply so that by the next blood count, they would be at least at 3. I resorted to prayers.
My hair became wispy and I started wearing a wig to work; it felt like I had lost all my femininity. Everyone consoled me saying it looked great but it was not convincing enough and I sought my strength from the Bible. Once I took paracetamol but I was unable to swallow as the chemotherapy treatment had resulted in corrosion of my throat.
After the first sessions of chemotherapy, I went for surgery. I remember the surgeon injecting some blue dye into the tumour in order to see exactly where the cancerous cells were situated and thirty minutes later I went into the operating theatre. After the surgery I had a few more chemotherapy sessions and it was after this was over that my spirits were truly lifted.
With a group of other people affected by cancer, we decided to start the Twakutukuza Trust. The Trust has facilitated musical concerts with a view of spreading hope. Whereas I was fortunate to be able to afford treatment both within and outside the country due to the generous donations from friends and family, my heart goes out to the majority of patients who are unable to get help.
Twakutukuza Trust supports cancer patients financially and most importantly gives emotional and moral support to families. My passion is to raise funds to facilitate the treatment for these less fortunate patients.
Doris Mayoli-Breast Cancer Victor