Purpose driven life – Norma Mbali

From a senior HR recruiter in the corporate world to owning her own branding company and now opening Norma’s Wellness Centre – a home for cancer patients. Super Survivor and businesswoman, Norma Mbali, is set to be a change agent. 

Norma Mbali (49) lives in Midrand, Gauteng with her husband and two sons, aged 21 and 16.

Beautiful, sophisticated and driven are the first words that come to mind when meeting Norma. After conversing, you’ll find that she has a heart filled with love and a strong desire  to help cancer patients. 


Since the age of 40, Norma went for yearly mammograms. In 2014, she went as  she usually did and got a clean bill of health. However, 28 days later, while travelling to Dubai, she noticed a lump in her right breast. After the 10-day break, she could feel another lump. She contacted family friend and breast cancer survivor, Lillian Dube, who referred her to a breast specialist. 

After screening, Norma was diagnosed with Stage 3 ductal breast cancer. When asked if she was angry that the mammogram didn’t pick the tumour up. She replies, “No, I was more concerned about dealing with the issue at hand – fighting the cancer. 

Ten months of chemotherapy started in  July. Once that was finished, Norma had a mastectomy with immediate lat flap reconstruction in April 2015. Thereafter, six weeks of daily radiation took place. By June 2020, Norma will be able to stop taking tamoxifen.

Dealing with side effects

Norma battled numerous side effects, from dry mouth and bedwetting to vaginal dryness and the biggest battle – forgetfulness. “I couldn’t work anymore as I didn’t remember names and would forget appointment dates… I was just a walking zombie. You don’t eat, sometimes you don’t sleep well, and the pain is unbearable. Some days are good while other days are bad. It fluctuated,” Norma explains.

A month after she completed radiotherapy, Norma’s husband took  her to London. “Do you know I don’t remember a single day of that trip. I have the photos, and the clothes I bought but I can’t recall any of that trip,” Norma says. Today, Norma still struggles with forgetfulness and must write everything down. 

Sister insight

Kholeka, Norma’s younger sister, 

was the person who suggested Norma opens a wellness centre. She took unpaid leave and moved from Umtata to look after Norma while Norma underwent treatment. 

While observing Norma with other patients in the oncology unit, she saw Norma had a natural ability of putting others first. “To me, I had already beaten cancer so I wanted to help 

other people. I would nurture the newly diagnosed patients,” Norma says. “Kholeka said to me, you are very good at this. Why don’t you open a home for patients?” 

Sadly, in September 2016, Kholeka was murdered. But Norma never forgot her words, “I see you changing your trial into a triumph. This cancer has changed you. You’ve become more patient, more compassionate and you are a good listener.” With this in mind, Norma started putting plans  into action.

Getting the ball rolling

Norma started giving motivational talks at churches and corporate functions. Here, she met other cancer patients and started to walk their journey with them. She started to accompany them to their chemo sessions and encouraged them when they didn’t have the will to carry on fighting. 

During the interview, a distressed daughter phoned Norma asking her to please come visit her mom, who has pancreas cancer, as she was refusing to eat.

Norma’s husband saw that helping cancer patients is his wife’s passion so he bought her a double-cab bakkie to make transporting patients easier. “Most of the time, they’re not feeling well so they want to lie down,” Norma adds.

Norma’s Wellness Centre 

The centre is still in the developmental stage. Two locations, in Midrand and Pretoria, have been sourced. Currently, Norma is securing and sourcing funding. She calls on the Department of Health, corporate companies and any individual donors to come aboard as sponsors. 

“I want this centre to be a place where cancer patients can be well-cared for, by trained caregivers, during their treatment. The centre will offer support, serve healthy balanced meals, provide massages to ease pain after chemo, and we will transport patients to and from hospital,” Norma explains. “There will be lots of love and lots of praying as well. 

Even though Norma has endured the loss of cancer patients in the past years, she says, “I won’t stop. More than taking chemo and having surgery, these people need love.” And, sharing love is Norma’s purpose driven life.

Photos by Chantal Drummond Photography | [email protected]  |  www.chantaldphoto.co.za

Make-up by: Chris Williams – Estée Lauder       |        Styled by: Zahi Fashion Hub

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 editor@buddiesforlife.co.za

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]

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