Shaunize Lundall has been in remission for almost 15 years, and at the age of 62 she is learning how to swim. She shares why she decided to do this and how it has impacted her life.
You can listen to this article below, or by using your favourite podcast player at pod.link/buddiesforlife
Shaunize Lundall (62) lives in Roodepoort, Gauteng with her husband, Christopher. They have three sons and three granddaughters.
In January 2008, Shaunize was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 46. She felt a lump in her breast while in the shower so went for a mammogram (her first ever); two days later she had a needle biopsy. “The surgeon told me that it’s breast cancer and I will need to take both breasts off and have chemotherapy. He was so mean when he told me; he had no emotion. I couldn’t accept that.
At the time, I was working, and a dear woman overheard me speaking about the diagnosis to a friend. I’m so grateful that she was listening to our conversation as she then suggested I go for a second opinion and recommended a breast specialist. Thankfully, the specialist worked at a public hospital as well as private, as I didn’t have medical aid,” Shaunize explains.
The second opinion proved to be a good call as Shaunize was told she would only need a lumpectomy. “I was so relieved to hear this. Both my husband and I were offered counselling, which helped a lot.”
After surgery in March, the breast specialist said the lump was so small (size of a thumbnail) so I would only need to go on tamoxifen, which I was on for six years and eight months.”
One nipple and proud of it
Unfortunately, due to the lump being so close to the nipple, the nipple had to be removed. “I remember the doctor waking me up after surgery to explain why the nipple had to be removed; I just burst into tears. I had so many thoughts running through my mind: Will I survive this? Was it enough? I thought about my children and husband and most of all I felt I wasn’t whole anymore,” Shaunize explains.
The doctor explained there were options that Shaunize could choose from, and another counselling session was then scheduled. “In this counselling session, the counsellor, who was also a breast cancer survivor, showed me her chest; she had both breasts removed and explained she uses a padded bra. She went on to tell me how her son had been missing for 21 years. When I heard what she had gone through, I realised that I needed to be a bit more grateful as I could wake up every day and see my family.”
Shaunize opted for reconstruction on the affected breast but declined the offer of a tattooed nipple. “I spoke to my husband and he said he was okay with only seeing one nipple and so I have one nipple and I’m proud of it,” Shaunize says smiling.
Shaunize continued with her check-ups (every three months, then six and now yearly) and went on with life, becoming a proud grandmother to three granddaughters: Ilhaam (7), Imarah (5), who are sisters, and Lameez (4).
“My eldest granddaughter, Ilhaam, is on the autism spectrum, is non-verbal and also has cerebral palsy on her right side. She loves water and I often look after her as her parents are working. One day, last year in August, she managed to open the gate to the swimming pool and luckily my domestic worker saw she was by the pool. Thankfully, she was only lying next to the pool with her hand in the water, but on the deep end. I can’t swim. So, I decided I need to find a swimming school so if I ever needed to help any of my granddaughters in the pool, I’ll be able to,” Shaunize explains.
Shaunize found a swimming school in the area and in September 2022 started the challenge of learning how to swim in her sixties.
Learning and laughing
In her first assessment, Shaunize explained to the swimming teacher that she can’t lift her arm too high due to breast surgery. The swimming teacher assured her that she’ll still be able to swim and that they will work on that arm as a group of physiotherapists work next door. The swimming teacher then had a meeting with the physiotherapists to discuss the difficulties Shaunize had with her arm and a plan was formed.
“I go every Tuesday and Thursday and I really have fun.We work on my arm and I learn how to swim. We are a group of elderly ladies and we love chatting, especially about our aches and pains. We laugh so much. Often the physiotherapists will come out of their offices to see what we are laughing about.”
“Ilhaam and Imarah go to the same swimming school so we are all learning to swim because of that incident. Imarah was actually scared of water so I showed her that I was also learning to swim, and she didn’t need to be scared, which really helped her. Our swimming teacher is great; she is so patient with us grannies and is so good with Ilhaam. I can now lift up my arm; I just can’t do backstroke as it goes to the side.”
Shaunize recently received a certificate for her Level 3 swimming achievement. “I look so forward to it and I don’t want the lessons to stop. It’s such a nice outing for me, I call it my me time. It has given me confidence; I have always been a shy person and hardly spoke but when I’m with this group of ladies, I’m vocal. It has also helped me with back pain, I fell outside a few years ago, and honestly has enhanced my life.”
Family is everything
Shaunize says family is very important to both her and her husband. “We are very big on family. Every Sunday, we have a family lunch together. Sherine, my sister, lives downs the road. My brother, Faried, sadly passed away; we miss him dearly. My husband, sister, her hubby, Amwar, and my late brother, were my biggest supporters throughout my breast cancer journey. They still encourage me today.”
Photos by Neale du Plooy Photography
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.