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Captured by hope: The story of a survivor

The words “Pray Against Breast Cancer” were spoken plainly and clearly in the dream but with no history of breast cancer in my family (that I knew of at the time) and being young at 33 years, I did not think it was anything to be worried about.

Vimbai Chikwenhere IN May 2021, I woke up from an unsettling dream. Although it was vivid, I struggled to comprehend whether it was just another dream or a spiritual warning.

The words “Pray Against Breast Cancer” were spoken plainly and clearly in the dream but with no history of breast cancer in my family (that I knew of at the time) and being young at 33 years, I did not think it was anything to be worried about.

Even after a very tiny lump appeared in my left breast in June 2021, I was surprisingly calm and unbothered, yet I did remember to pray against diseases and sicknesses in general. The little lump was painless and not a cause of concern (I thought), but my husband and I decided that it would be prudent for me to book a medical check-up just in case. My focus shifted to thinking about my parents who were suffering from Covid-19 in Zimbabwe. My father recovered but my mom went to be with the Lord on August 12, 2021.

It was painful and mind-boggling at the same time, yet I felt some closure that it was her time. A day after she passed away was my first scheduled medical appointment for the lump examination. I had to try and balance the emotions and be strong. The period of remote grieving on St Helena Island, was interrupted by various medical scans and tests leading to the climax on November 5, 2021 where the visibly distraught doctor conveyed the dreaded news of a rare triple negative stage 1 aggressive breast cancer diagnosis.

I remained astonishingly calm, a little numb but determined to fight this dart from the devil spiritually. Reality sunk when I got home — breaking into tears — I expressed the pain with a scream. After breaking the news to my husband, being the pragmatic man that he is, he did not waste time in seeking medical expert references from his network of friends and family.

As we had already made plans to travel to Zimbabwe for my mom’s memorial in December 2021, we decided that treatment would start when we arrived in the motherland. Upon arriving in Zimbabwe, I hesitated to go with the plan of getting medical treatment. The medical practitioners had advised that the lump had doubled in size from the initial diagnosis, implying that the cancer was growing at an exponential rate.

A cousin narrated her mom’s experience with breast cancer and her ultimate passing on as treatment started late. After that sharing, I was more than ready to begin medical treatment. Just after the first chemotherapy session, my body responded very well, and the lump significantly shrunk. My oncologist (Dr Nomsa Tsikai) was almost in tears with excitement and relief. The positive trend continued for all the eight chemotherapy sessions until the lump was so negligible that it was difficult to feel.

The side effects were minor with some bearable fatigue in between. I am eternally grateful and indebted to all those who gave their selfless support! The first stage of treatment was over and now I struggled to comprehend how the second stage of surgery would go. Based on the initial diagnosis, I had been advised that a mastectomy (full removal of the breast) would be the path for me. I was scheduled to have the operation in South Africa, all costs covered by medical aid — praise God!

On my first appointment with my surgeon, Dr Hans Jekel advised that a lumpectomy (removal of the remaining lump) was possible without me asking for his re-evaluation.

The lumpectomy operation was successful (with my dad and sister being able to visit me on my hospital bed) and 10 days later the results of the operation showed no trace of cancerous cells based on tests performed.

What a miracle working God we serve! I will be undergoing radiotherapy to further reduce the chances of a recurrence.

Whilst I consider myself privileged to have been on medical aid and had access to some of the best private medical care in Zimbabwe and South Africa and government care in St Helena Island, my heart breaks when I think of others who are going through this journey in my motherland Zimbabwe:

My friends’ young sister, Rumbidzai can hardly raise money for the expensive chemotherapy drugs as she cannot afford basic medical aid. My aunt, who is retired, cannot afford medical care and has had to seek herbal treatment (some of the herbalists whose motives are clearly to profit at the expense of the needy).

My therapy radiographer friend, Adriana has on numerous occasions experienced the pain of turning away cancer patients overdue for radiotherapy as the government radiotherapy machines are regularly breaking down. Those who have had to give up on treatment as they felt the money could be better spent to feed their families.

In conclusion, my strong encouragement to others is to keep the faith and back it up with action — go for early testing, seek help and support, keep a positive mindset and get medical aid (if possible). Faith backed with action works. At a macro-level, governments should do their part and prioritise its people’s health by ensuring that essential medical equipment is functioning well, and that the public has access to an affordable national health scheme.

  • Read full article on https://www.theindependent.co.zw/.
  • Chikwenhere nee’ Kadenge is a cancer survivor who is passionate about inspiring hope and has a strong interest in matters affecting ordinary citizens.