“I’ve never missed a mammogram in my life, yet last year I just couldn’t get there. I was busy with a 40-day detox when suddenly a huge lump appeared under my arm. No biopsy was done, however, the surgeon was firm: it must be removed!”
Estelle Meldau (56) had the abscess under her arm removed, just to find out in April of this year that another huge bump surfaced. A mammogram and ultrasound confirmed a 4.4cm lump – some of the tissue was sent for analysis.
“I waited in anticipation for the outcome. A few days later I was told I have stage-3 breast cancer and that I’ll have to undergo a lumpectomy or mastectomy,” said Estelle. “I was quite astounded with the diagnoses as I’m a clean living person who doesn’t use alcohol or smoke, I’m a vegan, plus, I have no family history of cancer.”
“I had so many questions about how and when everything will happen, but it seemed to me that we were talking about someone else. I immediately realised that it won’t help to sit in a corner and cry, this path is set out for me and I’ll stay positive and make the best of it.”
When Estelle broke the news to her three children, they were fairly emotional and reacted with disbelief.
“I think for my husband, Nicholas, the waiting was the hardest. He once told me that if it was not for my positive attitude, he doesn’t know how he would handle everything.”
Estelle completed 12 rounds of chemotherapy treatment. She lost her beautiful, thick, black hair.
“My hair was my everything! I did not want to wear a wig. A couple of days after my first chemo session my hair fell out like leaves from a tree – it was quite emotional – I lost all my confidence. The hair falling out makes you itch. On that sunny morning I had a good cry about everything. Together with my husband and my second son, we went to the hair salon and we all shaved our heads bald. The shaving was fun.”
Some of the challenges Estelle faced while undergoing chemo were severe nausea and constant bladder infection, however, she admitted the side-effects never overwhelmed her.
Estelle described cancer as a cult, “the disease has certain beliefs and practices.” During her chemotherapy treatment, Nicholas accompanied Estelle. “I have a great support system, I didn’t want friends at the infusion centre – I did not want to hear they aren’t going to be here next week…”
During Estelle’s cancer journey, her biggest fear was enduring more tests. “I trust my team of doctors completely and accept what they put in front of me, but when they tell me I have to go for the next test, that was horrendous!”
With teary eyes, Estelle explained that she is petrified of blood tests, “waiting for the results is the worst!”
Being a true animal lover, Estelle is actively involved at Woodrock Animal Rescue and Kennels. As a home to 150 dogs, Woodrock provides assistance to unfortunate, homeless, abused, neglected, stray, injured, ill and unwanted animals that would otherwise have miserable lives and premature deaths.
“I love animals and every animal deserves a second chance,” said Estelle.
A photograph always tells a story, so Estelle decided to go for a photo shoot with her bald head to express her story.
“I chose three dogs that Woodrock have saved, despite their condition we repaired them. One of the dogs, Kiara, is a breast cancer survivor! It was a wonderful experience and I felt like a model. I want to enlarge the pictures to hang in our house.”
Estelle recently had her surgery and is currently undergoing radiation.
She would like to say to other women who are taking a similar journey: “If you take a positive approach, you can still be a worthy woman and you can be pretty despite no hair or no breast(s). The way you feel deep inside your heart is what you emit to others.
Do not let breast cancer withhold the better of you. If you take care of yourself and feel good about how you look, stay positive, live your life to the fullest, and laugh as much as you breathe, you already won the battle. It’s a choice you make…”
It’s almost like the seasons of life.
Written By Elsje Smit.