Veronica Ramruch (45) was told by her GP that she didn’t have cancer. Only to find out two days later that, in actual fact, she had stage 3 Triple-negative breast cancer. She recounts her emotions and how she perservered through her treatment plan.
In August 2015, I noticed my right breast was swollen. It was red and painful. There was also a lump under my armpit. I expected it to disappear, but three weeks later, it was extremely uncomfortable and unbearable. I had a mammogram at Lake, Smit & Partners – specialists in diagnostic radiology – which has been my place of employment for the past 27 years; the findings required me to have a biopsy.
Having family history of cancer, I waited in anticipation to receive the results. A few days later, I contacted my GP; he told me I was in the clear. I still remember his exact words, “You can celebrate as you don’t have cancer.” I was over the moon.
Two days later, my life changed forever. My biopsy results were also sent to my employer, Dr Zietkiewiecz, a radiologist. The results he had on paper were poles apart from what my GP had told me. I didn’t want to believe it. I was dumbstruck. A million questions clouded my mind. Am I going to die? What about my family? How will I tell them?
It turns out my GP phoned in for my results and was told it was clear. He never actually received the results on paper. I have since changed my GP.
I cried all the way home and prayed to God for strength. I cried a whole lot more, but no matter how many tears you shed, the fear still remains.
My husband knew it was going to be the biggest challenge of our lives and was prepared to weather the storm, holding my hand, every step of the way.
It all happened so fast. I met with Dr Rajput, a surgeon, and Dr Landers, an oncologist. It was established that I had stage 3 Triple-negative breast cancer. Between the two of them my treatment plan was formulated. I felt so helpless as I had to rely solely on their plan for my recovery. Due to the large and aggressive tumour, I would only be able to have a mastectomy at a later stage. I would have 16 rounds of chemo and 25 sessions of radiotherapy.
A few days after I received my first taste of the “Red Devil”, I sunk deeper into a black hole. The side effects took over my body and my life: nausea, pain, and my immune system at it’s lowest.
The hair loss didn’t affect me emotionally, however the pain whilst it fell out was unbearable. I lost part of my vision, I was off balance, I was tired, had no energy and couldn’t eat.
I was ready to give up. It would be so much easier to die.
However, my husband wouldn’t let me. His words: “I’m not ready to see you wither away, you need to fight this, we will do this together” made me realise that I needed to live. From that day onwards, I fought with courage and determination. He was my eyes when I couldn’t see, my voice when I couldn’t speak, and my strength when I was weak. He got me through this without a murmur of complaint.
On 14 March 2016, my right breast was removed. As a woman you never really prepare yourself for this, but if you accept the changes of your body and love yourself, you become confident and brave.
My histology results after surgery were favourable as all margins were free of the tumour and none of the 16 lymph nodes that were removed were cancerous. I was told, “there was no traces of the cancer.” I was relieved and thanked God for every part of my journey.
A few months later, I started radiotherapy; compared to chemo, it is a breeze. All I felt was fatigue.
I went back to work this July and continue to strive for excellence in all that I do. How many people are lucky enough to be given the gift of time?
Remember it’s not about the way you look, it’s about your health. Listen to your body and never give up on life. Each of us are different and will never experience the same side effects; all you can do is take each day as it comes.
Breast cancer didn’t ruin my life, it changed my life. It taught me how to prioritise my life and was all worth it in the end. Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.