My support system has kept me alive

Without the support Lungile Shangase received from her family, friends and healthcare providers, she believes she wouldn’t be alive. She tells us her story.

Lungile Shangase (34) lives in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal with her husband and children.

My diagnosis

My name is Lungile. I am a daughter, a wife, a mother, a friend, a sister and a breast cancer survivor.

At the age of 29, I felt a lump in my left breast while self-examining my breasts. I thought ‘this could be cancer’ but then thinking of my age, I was convinced otherwise.

I didn’t tell anyone about the lump for a few days, but constantly monitored it. Waiting for it to disappear, I kept checking my right breast but there was no lump like there was in the left.

Eventually, I plucked up the courage and told my husband. He advised me to book an appointment urgently. And so, I was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in December 2012. Several lymph nodes were also affected.

My treatment

In January 2013, I went for a single mastectomy. My 25 fractions of radiotherapy followed in March, as well as hormonal treatment, Zoladex. This was to protect my ovaries prior to the chemotherapy, which commenced in May.

My chemo regime included four cycles of AC (doxorubicin and endoxan), followed by 12 weeks of Taxol and nine weeks of Herceptin. I was meant to be on Herceptin for a year, however, my medical aid only approved nine weeks.

At first, I experienced severe nausea but it was manageable. My hair loss though wasn’t. To be honest, all in all chemo wasn’t that bad. It has, however, damaged my veins and as a result, even today, I’m still anaemic.

I am still currently on Zoladex. In December 2013, I started taking tamoxifen and am currently in my fourth year of taking it.

Long road

It’s been a long road but I’m grateful to God for giving me another chance in life, and most of all the strength to fight cancer. I am so very grateful to my husband who has been with me every step of the way.

The support I got from everyone around me was amazing – doctors, nurses, colleagues and friends. It was just phenomenal! In fact, the truth is I doubt I would still be alive without the support I received.

Mama is not well

My kids were still too young to understand what was going on. We never told them about the details of my sickness all they knew was that ‘mama is not well’. The thing that mattered the most was that I had to fight and win my battle because they need me. And, I need to see them grow up too.

Not ashamed of my scars

This very painful experience made me stronger. I look at life in a different way – loving unconditionally and accepting myself. I’m not ashamed of my scars because those scars make me a person that I am today.

Invest in my health

I don’t invest my energy in the things that don’t matter to me nor tolerate negative energy. I invest in my health. In September 2015, I ran my first half marathon. Since then I’ve completed a number of marathons. I even joined an athletics club. I’ve made a lot of amazing ‘runner’ friends; we support each other, we laugh and we ‘box’ the road side by side.

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