Lebogang Ramphisa tells us how tragedy transformed her to start Flowers of Hope.
Lebogang Ramphisa (29) lives in Pretoria, Gauteng with her husband and three children.
Stage 3 mucinous carcinoma of the breast
I was living a normal life, happily married and a mother to my adorable three children. After getting married in 2018, I gave birth to my third child. Unbeknown to me, a year later, in June 2019, my life drastically changed as I became a breast cancer patient.
I was diagnosed with Stage 3 mucinous carcinoma of the breast.
This is a rare form of invasive ductal carcinoma (cancer that begins in the milk duct and spreads into nearby healthy tissue). In this type of cancer, the tumour is made up of abnormal cells that float in pools of mucin, a key ingredient in the slimy, slippery substance known as mucus.
Even though the first symptom was a lump, never in a million years did I think it was cancer. I went to a radiologist specialist who performed an ultrasound only (not a mammogram) due to my age.
Being diagnosed at 28 was truly a shocker, given that most cancer patients are older women. This I knew firsthand, given that my great grandmother, my grandmother and my aunt all passed away due to cervical cancer.
Mind over matter
Treatment began with a double mastectomy in July 2019. Subsequently, I underwent chemotherapy for six months. Anyone that has gone through chemotherapy will tell you how draining it is, both physically and emotionally. The body changes were quite unsettling and I did anything to assist the treatment in quickening my healing.
Feeling distraught I thought I was cursed and became an emotional wreck. My family were just as taken aback and scared as I was. I went to church for prayers.
In time, we gained courage. As a collective, our research ensued whilst re-instilling a level of positivity. This was needed as my self-esteem and confidence had been shattered.
Undoubtedly due to a steady support structure from family, friends and unrelenting support from my employer, I took the battle to the disease and it became a mind-over-matter-type-of-situation.
Fast forward to 2020 and I am a living testimony that breast cancer can be fought, and that on its own is an achievement that makes me feel amazing.
Until 2022, I will be on chronic medication; I take goserelin injections every three months. I am motivated every single day and continually learning how to love myself, allowing God to use me as a vessel of hope to let people know that love and support are key drivers to being a breast cancer survivor. Medication came second for me.
Flowers of Hope
I now pride myself on breast cancer awareness, especially in surrounding communities, regardless of race, gender or age. I started a foundation, Flowers of Hope. The mission is to bring change, light and hope to local communities.
People from disadvantaged townships should be able to overcome poverty and other social challenges, no matter their race or gender. To do so we focus on education, hunger management, advocating for community health, and skills development.
We also help cancer patients through our adult nappies campaign, visiting old age homes, and assisting with cleaning hospices and donating essentials.
A flower of hope is extended through projects like providing sanitary pads for high school girls, promoting healthy living and family planning.
A future goal is to bridge the gap in screening accessibility, there shouldn’t be a stigma surrounding conversations about cancer.