Yoliswa Mahlinza, a young mother of two, tells us her journey of being diagnosed with a benign phyllodes tumour.
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Yoliswa Mahlinza (35) lives in between Ubombo, KwaZulu-Natal and Ruimsig, Gauteng. She is married with two sons.
During lockdown in 2021, Yoliswa was battling to fall asleep and when trying to get comfortable on her stomach, she felt discomfort in her left breast. She touched her breast and felt a lump. The next day she went for an ultrasound and was told that it’s normal, most women have lumps and they are mostly benign (non-cancerous).
A few months passed and the lump wasn’t disappearing so her GP sent her for another ultrasound as the GP was concerned. “To our surprise the lump had doubled in size and I was sent to a breast specialist,” Yoliswa recalls.
A biopsy was done which showed that the lump was a benign phyllodes tumour (a rare fibroepithelial neoplasm), but due to the current size (golf ball), surgery was planned to remove it.
“The lumpectomy was quick but the breast specialist picked up that it had already planted seeds in multiple areas, including my right breast. This is because phyllodes tumours spreads like wheat. A follow-up lumpectomy was done to remove all the nodes affected and the little lumps that had started growing in both breasts.”
The two lumpectomies and reconstruction were done in a space of two weeks.
Yoliswa says she was dizzy post-op which she was told is normal but the worse for her was experiencing nausea, especially when she had to empty the drains that collect the fluid from the wounds each morning. Plus, the drowsiness from the medication that she had to take. “If I recall I had to take eight pills three times a day.”
Rollercoaster of emotions
Even though the phyllodes tumour wasn’t cancerous, Yoliswa was still angry. “I was 33 years old so was angry because I was fit, gyming five times a week and had just completed my first 21km marathon. I had never been a sick person so to be diagnosed with a rare breast issue was too much. The breast specialist explained that she only treats a handful of patients with phyllodes tumours.”
Yoliswa goes on to say, “Accepting it was hard; at that time I was alone with my son in JHB and my husband (who was a boyfriend at the time) was back in KZN so I needed to be strong for my son. I had to downplay everything to my family due to certain reasons, so going through everything was just a rollercoaster: one moment I’m fine and positive about life, looking forward to the start of our lobola negotiations, the next I’m thinking what if I’m just a burden to this sweet guy?”
“It was a lot but what gave me comfort was his support, his assurance that all will be fine. He would drive all the way to JHB for all my appointments. When we were preparing for the second operation, I came clean to my family about the lump and they all came together in support of me.”
“I have since gotten married to the love of my life, so each day he reminds me how important I am and how much he loves me so for me each day is a celebration of love and life because I know how it feels to depend on someone, even to bath you. This taught me it’s the smallest things that matter the most.”
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.
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