We speak to Super Survivors, Lyonda Ditau and Princess Nakedi, about having breast cancer treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Public hospital patient
Lyonda Ditua (52) lives in Krugersdorp, Gauteng with her boyfriend and brother. She has one adult son and a grandchild.
Not only did Lyonda need to process the news of a breast cancer diagnosis in March 2020 but a pandemic that was causing havoc all over the world, plus a national lockdown that shutdown the country. “I panicked as I thought I wouldn’t be receiving chemotherapy as scheduled or on time,” she explains.
The planned treatment regime was chemotherapy, then surgery later in October. Radiation will be decided on, depending on the outcome of the first two treatments.
The delays due to COVID
Chemotherapy started on time, however, there have been several delays. Lyonda explains, “Twice my chemo session had to be moved to next day due to the doctor only seeing me after 12pm. By this time, it’s too late to start the chemo session so I had to come back the next day for chemo to be administered.
It’s frustrating because this meant I had to go earlier each time to ensure I was seen by the doctor in time.”
“The chemo unit only has one oncology pharmacy, where each patient’s chemo is prepared for the day. This also takes long and you wait a while until your chemo is ready. There was also a shortage of doctors and nurses due to many of them assigned to the COVID ward. This slowed the process down and I wasn’t always seen by my assigned doctor but by many different doctors.”
“Twice in July, I went to the hospital for treatment and then a bone scan only to find the clinics closed. There was a COVID outbreak but no one communicated this to the patients, informing us not to come in.”
Lyonda has two more chemo sessions left and says she was never afraid of contracting COVID while at the hospital. She just wanted to get her treatment done.
Because Lyonda is undergoing treatment, her employer has requested that she stays home until her treatment is finished and the COVID numbers decrease. Thankfully, she is still being paid and hasn’t endured any financial strain.
Despite the uphill battle, Lyonda is grateful to the doctors and nurses at the oncology clinic for their patience, care and support. “Their support has helped me push through such a traumatic journey.”
Private hospital patient
Princess Nakedi (50) lives in Glenanda, Gauteng. She co-parents her nieces with her sister.
To Princess, the national lockdown was a blessing to her. “It gave me the privacy to have treatment without going to work and explain to everyone all the changes that were about to take place,” she says.
Princess was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in February 2020. She started chemotherapy in March and finished in July. She says there were no delays in her treatment. However, she admits she was paranoid about contracting COVID. “I have masks, gloves, every kind of disinfectant you can get, a thermometer, and bottles of sanitiser in my car, house and my parents’ house. I also took immune boosters and drank a lot of water.”
Because Princess lives alone, she decided to go stay with her parents during lockdown. “I stayed indoors most of the time. The only time I went out was for my doctors’ appointment and to the pharmacy, which my brothers alternated in driving me. We adhered to the rules, I sat in the back with a mask on,” she says.
Chemo session protocols
Even though Princess admits she was paranoid about contracting COVID, the protocols done at the oncology unit helped ease the anxiety. “On my side, I had to wear a mask, gloves and have my own sanitiser with me. Then when you entered, there was a station where you had to sanitise and your temperature was taken. I could bring in my snacks for the four-hour session as my brother wasn’t allowed in. There was constant sanitising and social distancing.”
End of chemo celebration
When Princess finished her last chemo session; her brother bought a cake with the image of Captain Marvel on. She shared
it with the oncologist and nurses as a celebration of completing chemo. “I even wore a cape as I wanted to make a grand exit from that place,” she says.
The 50-year-old underwent a lumpectomy and reconstruction in August and will then undergo 33 radiation sessions. She is currently staying with her one brother and his wife.
Financial strain due to COVID
The way lockdown has negatively affected Princess is with her business. She owns a restaurant which was closed during lockdown. When the restrictions were eased, she opened it in June but after a month of slow business she closed it. “There is no point keeping it open, if there are no customers.”
This has affected Princess financially as she has had to pay her staff and unfortunately her applications for COVID relief has been unsuccessful.
Her brother has also assisted financially with medical aid co-payments while other family members have bought her daily essentials.
The best support
Princess concludes, “This has been a journey, both breast cancer and COVID, and it hasn’t been easy. I couldn’t have walked this journey without support, prayer and faith. My family and friends have been that support for me. I wouldn’t be so strong and positive if it wasn’t for them, especially my close-knit family.
MEET OUR EDITOR – Laurelle Williams
Laurelle Williams is the Editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. [email protected]