The most important support I needed after my diagnosis was to simply talk to others who understood.
For many, September 11th conjures up images of death and grief. For me, it was a good day. I was told I had beaten cancer.
For the 6 months prior to September 11, I had taken nothing for granted. There was nothing certain about the next day. Each day was a fight for survival. Each day, my body reacted differently to the level of toxic chemicals in my blood. I was either sliding towards that point, 7 days after a “heavy” dose of chemo where I couldn’t move. Or, after getting through that low point in the cycle, I was moving with a sense of dread toward the next date in the calendar of receiving another nauseating round of the drugs. All in the hope of killing this thing growing inside me, and not knowing if it would consume me.
Today, there was finally, real hope that the end of a dark journey was coming to a happy ending. So I started thinking about my future. Realizing there was a greater degree of certainty about what lay ahead, I started to reflect on the various promises I made to myself on what I would do if I got back on my feet.
There were a number of aspects of my life I wanted to change, but there was one thing in particular I wanted to do. I wanted to help others deal with the uncertainty of what lay ahead when they were diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t want someone else to have to “re-invent the wheel of learning” that I had been through. After all, I had learned so much during this period I felt it was a waste not to pass this knowledge on. But most importantly, I wanted to be a beacon of hope. I wanted to show people that cancer wasn’t necessarily a death knell. It can be beaten. So in 2002, after I was well enough mentally and physically, I co founded People Living With Cancer (PLWC) with Linda Greeff, another cancer survivor.
So far we have networks in the Western Cape, Port Elizabeth and Nelspruit. My dream is to make this kind of support network available to all people living with different diagnoses of cancer countrywide.