A year after Lara Jersky was diagnosed with breast cancer so was her mother, Adeline Midzuk. We hear how mother and daughter dealt with this and supported each other.
Lara Jersky (41) lives in Sandown, Gauteng with her husband and son (7).
In May 2018, it was by chance that Lara felt a lump in her breast. “I was walking, and my son bumped my arm which bumped my breast and I felt a lump. I was concerned so I made an appointment with my gynae but the only appointment she had was in a month’s time. My husband said I shouldn’t wait and must go for a mammogram. So, I went the next day; the radiologist told me that it didn’t look good. At that point, I saw a road block in front of me; I didn’t know how to move forward. Total fear!” Lara explains.
A biopsy was done and Lara had to wait five days for the results. “The not knowing was very hard. I kept trying to distract myself but the fear was profuse,” she says.
The results showed that Lara had oestrogen-positive breast cancer. “After hearing the news I froze, I couldn’t move and was in shock. I didn’t know the way forward. Little did I know how this time in my life would have such a huge impact on me. My family and friends were so extremely supportive. My husband helped me think straight and positively and move forward step-by-step,” Lara says.
When Adeline heard that her youngest child, Lara, had breast cancer she felt that she was maybe too blame. “As a mother, I never told my girls to go for check-ups,” she says. However, Lara reassured her that it wasn’t her fault.
Lara started four rounds of red devil every three weeks. Thereafter she had paclitaxel, however, halfway through, it was discovered that the paclitaxel wasn’t working as well as expected. But since the red devil was successful, her oncologist advised that surgery was the next step. Lara had a lumpectomy and then went for 31 radiation sessions. She was then prescribed a hormone blocker every day for five years; Lara is currently in her third year.
Lara recalls a special moment during treatment that she will never forget. “We were meant to go for Shabbat dinner on Friday and I didn’t have the energy to go and my mom was meant to go with to my in-laws. But she said, ‘No, I will stay with you, I will sit with you while you sleep.’” Adeline responds to this story by saying, “You are my baby, I had to.”
The 41-year old continues, “My mother was just amazing during my treatment. She would sit with me, no matter what state I was in, angry, upset or happy, and would always encourage me to carry on. So was my husband, we were a team. He actually started growing a beard when I got diagnosed. I told him that I don’t like beards, but he said when I was finished treatment he would shave it off. Gaby Joseph, Brenda Stern and the wonderful people from DL Link held my hand. DL Link is a Jewish non-profit organisation that helps cancer patients during and after treatment. Nothing was too big a challenge for them. Sheena Wolowitz really went to the ends of the earth to help me. The book Getting Well Again was a great help and inspiration.”
BRCA gene testing
“I had a strong feeling that my cancer may be hereditary so once I completed treatment in 2019, I decided to go for testing. While mapping out my family history; there were quite a few members that had cancer: two paternal cousins had breast, my father – bladder, my brother – testicular, my maternal uncle – brain and my maternal gran – lung. The genetic counsellor said it was medium to high risk as not all these cancers were connected to the BRCA gene. So, she wrote a motivational letter to my medical aid as to why I needed it and by this time my mom had been diagnosed too.
So, I had the test (blood) and it was positive for the BRCA 2 gene mutation. Nobody wants to hear that they have a higher chance of getting certain cancers. My oncologist and genetic counsellor advised that preventative surgery is something to consider and that is something I’m contemplating for the future.” Lara adds, “Ever since I was diagnosed I begged my mom to go for a mammogram and I encouraged my siblings to have the gene test. My brother had a consult, but my older sisters haven’t.”
Find the joy
Even though Lara’s cancer is hereditary, she still attributes part of her ill health to not taking care of herself. “My father passed away in 2016. I didn’t manage this stress well. It’s vital to manage the stress we encounter. Looking after ourselves emotionally has a huge impact on our physical health. The quote from the Dalia Lama explains this perfectly, “Happiness is the highest form of health.”
Adeline Midzuk (78) lives in Abbotsford, Gauteng. She has four children and seven grandchildren.
In March 2019, Adeline fell and sustained an injury on her head. When she was at the doctor, he asked when last she had been for a mammogram. “I told him that I had never been,” Adeline says. So, she made an appointment and after all the scans and test, it was confirmed that she had triple-negative cancer. “I was shocked.
I thought well I hadn’t been for check-ups and it has happened, there is nothing I can do about it but get through it,” Adeline says. The 78-year attributes this way of thinking to her father, “My father lived throughmany hardships and he always instilled in us children that whatever we go through in life, we must never give up, and that is how I have been.”
Lara adds that it was completely shocking for the family. “I had just been through this and now a year later, my mom too. It was unbelievable and I felt helpless and scared. Her diagnosis was not in my control.”
Lara and Adeline had the same treating doctors and similar treatment, however, Adeline underwent a lumpectomy first, and lymph nodes were removed. She then had two sets of chemotherapy and a month of radiation.
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t go with my mom to chemotherapy. I had to separate myself from that as I was still processing my own trauma. I still remember when she had her op, I was at the hospital and it was too much for me that I had to leave,” Lara explains. As a mother, Adeline understood this completely, “It was too much for her. But my other children were there.”
Lara chose a different way to offer support to her mother. “I was contacted by DL Link to share my story on ChaiFM. I had been quite private about my treatment but now that my mom was diagnosed, I wanted to share that I had got through it and so could she. I wanted her to hear me talk about it in a positive way.” And she did as Adeline pushed through treatment and now mother and daughter share a rare bond of both being cancer survivors. Adeline says, “I’m blessed. I’m still here and have my children and grandchildren at my fingertips. I’m a very wealthy woman.”
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. Write to the email@example.com