Lindie Liebenberg shares how she and her family, friends and employer are slaying cancer together.
Lindie Liebenberg (49) lives in Roodepoort, Gauteng with her husband, Werner. They have three children, Armandt, Nandie and Elzane, and two granddaughters.
Cancer has never been a topic of discussion in my family. That was until I felt a painless lump in my left breast, the size of a golf ball. The diagnosis: Stage 3 Luminal B, HER2 negative, hormone-sensitive. It already went into my lymph nodes.
The diagnosis, on 7 Feb 2019, came at a financially difficult time. We were on a hospital plan so all tests had to be paid for in cash. On the morning of the core needle biopsy and the V-marker inserted into the tumour, the exact amount was deposited into my account. It seems as if the heavens were looking down on me through my son, Armandt, and his wife, Maryna.
Armandt phoned my insurance company; luckily, I hadn’t cancelled my policy. This relieved some of the financial burden. We decided to sell our extra vehicle and use that money for my treatment.
A month and a half passed with numerous tests; I was already tired of hospitals and my treatment hadn’t even started. My employer, of 10 years, was understanding and changed the accounts programme to enable me to work from home. I am also a part-time sales leader for a beauty product company, managing more than 250 representatives.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Thankfully, my hospital plan registered me under oncology and that covered all the previous bills. Things were looking up and we saw light at the end of the tunnel.
My treatment plan included six months of chemo (AC doxorubicin and docetaxel) to shrink the tumour and stop further spread. The surgery entailed a bilateral skin- and nipple-saving mastectomy and reconstruction. Thereafter, radiation every weekday for six weeks, 29 sessions. Then tamoxifen for 10 years; the joy, this forced me into menopause. I suffer with hot flushes, night sweats, knee pain and nausea. But I see these side effects as a step closer to my full recovery.
My family are so supportive and their acts of love make this experience worthwhile. Werner and Armandt came with me to my hairdresser to get advice for when I lose my hair. Elzane moved to JHB from Cape Town, for two months, to be with me while
I had chemo. Both my daughters and daughter-in-law donated their hair to be mixed with mine to make a wig.
I only wore it twice, as headscarves, shown to me by my domestic worker, Sophy, are much more comfortable.
Nandie cut off her hair to empathise with me. She donated and raised an amazing R14 000 for Hairs With Love, a campaign to provide human hair wigs to people suffering with illnesses.
My brother and 20 of his staff and my two sisters also shaved their heads. Armandt and Maryna took part in a race which raised funds for breast cancer beneficiaries. While two of my friends took part in a CANSA Relay.
Even my security company showered me with love. They checked all the panic buttons, installed new sensors on my exiting doors, and gave Sophy and I panic bracelets all at their cost.
Nandie opened a Facebook group for me; there are over 540 members. It really pulls me through the days I feel scared and uncomfortable with continuous pain. My friend, a mouth cancer survivor, created a beautiful memory book full of all the messages sent to me. Last but not least, my sister-in-law provides us regularly with home-cooked meals.
All these acts of love help me to push on. I feel much more loved and stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. It’s due to these sentimental acts that I choose life.
Set back but still fighting
On 10 March this year, I went for a full check-up. The good news was that my chest, breast, abdomen and pelvis were clean, but abnormal cancer cells were found in my lymph nodes. Blood tests revealed that I have too much calcium in my blood that sends out too many hormones from my parathyroid glands.
I stopped tamoxifen immediately and was prescribed Gemzar chemo (12 sessions every second Friday for the next six months), as I can never get the previous two chemos again. I will then undergo an operation to remove the lymph nodes. Shock, disbelief, anger; Werner and I experienced all of them. We had to share this terrible news with the kids again. But, being the positive close-knit family we are, my kids assured me that we would get through this together.
My spirit was lightened with the birth of my second granddaughter, Jana, on 9 April this year. I have even more to fight for. In the meantime, I will tell my story and spread the hope.