Sometimes cancer stories seem just that, stories. It appears to be something that could happen to someone else somewhere far away. This week I shall share with you a young woman’s journey with cancer and how she has overcome this obstacle in her own words. Her challenge brought out excellence beyond description. Cancer affects so many different people but it only has two faces defeat and triumph. Usually by the end of the first consult you can see which face a patient wears. I remember seeing Mbuwa for the first time and triumph was written all over her face. Fear, doubt and all that was there but the biggest face was triumph. Here we go.
“You have breast cancer-stage one” I still remember those words spoken by my doctor. Those words really scared me! This was towards the end of 2016. My names are Mbuwa Ndhlovu Mvula and this is my story.
Towards the end of 2016 I felt a lump in my right breast. My first thought was “I am sure it will clear and it’s nothing serious, part of me ignored it. But then a couple of weeks later I noticed that blood was coming out of my nipple! So I rushed to the hospital and was told I had to do a mammogram and later on a surgical biopsy. I remember going to the doctor’s office to get the results. That was when he told me I had breast cancer-stage 1 to be specific. I felt like my whole world came crashing down! I broke down in the doctor’s office, all those articles and movies I had watched about cancer including loss of hair, chemotherapy and radiation frightened me and I thought I was going to die! I thank God for my husband, my family and friends. They encouraged me and offered great support.
I sought a second opinion and unfortunately I was told me the same thing. My team of doctors were so warm and encouraging and they advised me to have mastectomy (removal of my right breast) this was because even though the cancer was at stage one, the location of the lump was very worrisome and that the cancer was aggressive and that there was a huge possibility that it would spread if it was not removed.
I had a great team of doctors to take care of me. So late December 2016 I had a mastectomy performed, which was a success. I thought the worst part was over only to be told that I would need chemotherapy as well to kill the cancer cells. I was told I would need eight sessions of chemotherapy – one every three weeks. The doctors and nurses were very helpful. While all this was happening, I was a part time student pursuing a degree programme in Business Administration as well as working as a procurement officer. I remember being advised to defer a full semester from school because the doctors where not sure how I would react to chemotherapy. That was also one of hardest decisions I ever made but I had to focus on surviving. I concentrated on surviving. My family and friends supported me and stood by me.
Chemotherapy was no walk in the park. The medications made me so sick; I eventually lost my hair too. My husband was so loving and I now understood that when he said for better or worse, in sickness and in health he really meant every single word.
Fast forward after the chemotherapy I had to go back to school still with the side effects of chemotherapy. One of them being memory lapses, my worry was how was I going to finish school My doctor encouraged me take notes as often as I could and to relax because there wasn’t anything that could be done about it. So I had to study twice as hard as before as before and by God’s grace I managed to finish the semester. Surprisingly it turned out to be one best semester I ever had with great help from my friends and lecturers.
A week to graduation I got a call from my university asking me to be the valedictorian for the School of Business. I was so honoured! This was because I really wanted to share my story and possibly encourage someone and give them hope. What I didn’t know was that I was also one of the best graduating students of 2018 under the School of Business. So against all odds I managed to get my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a distinction!
I am still on medication (tamoxifen and zoladex) for the next five to ten years but I survived. I am a survivor!
Mbuwa’s story is her reality. It has so many layers we can learn from – the patient herself, her caregivers and her survivorship. I always tell my patients a positive attitude is 75% of the work done in a cancer journey. Make no mistake a positive attitude does not mean having a perpetual smile on one’s face. It just means taking cancer by the horns and owning your experience. I remember seeing Mbuwa come for her chemotherapy. Her beauty never faded through out her treatment and I coincidently found myself in the chemotherapy suite during her last cycle of chemotherapy and she had such a wide smile on her face it was lighting up the whole room.
Mbuwa has experienced life’s unfair face yet she is a warm and loving person. Knowing her life’s story should make one introspect and strive for the best.
There is no better way to celebrate October month than to salute survivors like Mbuwa.