There can be few sentences in the world that create more fear than, “I’m sorry to tell you that it is cancer.”
This week it’s a very personal story of a close family member that has struggled with the BIG C and the effect it has had on her life.
Growing up in the eighties in Durban was a wonderful time. Warm water beaches, great summers and an outdoor lifestyle not interrupted by excesses of television or the Internet made for a wonderful upbringing.
What no-one told us was that beautiful warm sun was also potentially very dangerous. Summers were spent trying to get that “ultimate sun tan” and who remembers the crazy days we used baby oil to promote the “burn”.
As with everything in life there is always a piper who needs to be paid and, in this case, it was the diagnosis of malignant cells in Yvette (name has been changed for obvious reasons).
What made it even worse was that the cells were on her face. What started off as a sun spot or brown freckle, slowly grew until eventually it had to be seen to. An operation soon followed with the instruction that they would look at it again in six months and decide then if any cosmetic surgery was required to hide the large Y shaped scar.
Six months passed.
It came back….and worse than before. There was an additional spot on her forehead which grew rapidly until it could no longer be hidden or avoided.
Fear is a terrible thing but mostly because it paralyses us. Sometimes we imagine that it will go away or that a simpler treatment will work and magically all will be well.
But life is not like that. It got bigger and bigger until this was an urgent situation. Life also has a strange sense of humour, and at a key moment, her company retrenched all the staff so suddenly there was no medical aid and money was in short supply.
A visit to a prominent plastic surgeon was not good news. The operation was a big one. Probably three to five hours. The melanoma on her cheek required a two-centimetre resection which meant in effect that the cheek would be removed let alone the enormous lesion on her forehead which had by now started penetrating the bone.
They could try fix it, but the cost was at least R150 000 and that money was no longer there. What do you do. It’s serious, life threatening but you just don’t have the money.
That was when Yvette went to Groote Schuur.
Yes, it’s not as pretty as a private hospital and yes, they don’t serve wine and satellite television, but Groote Schuur is staffed by some of the most amazing people in our city.
Throughout the process, kind, well trained and thoughtful staff, walked her through the process.
The massive resection of her cheek was redesigned by a plastic surgeon who realised that to remove a woman’s whole cheek had massive ramifications and the malignancy was cut out carefully.
She asked me, no begged me to write this. To tell the people that there are human beings doing the best that they can, who care for the people they treat and are incredibly competent at what they do.
Yvette had only praise and gratitude for the wonderful people of Groote Schuur who have probably saved her life.
Oh and the cost of all of this? Less than R1000.
Let’s give credit where credit is due.