Cancer Alliance Stigma Survey

Cancer stigma is a great problem in South Africa, it touches all groups, ages and genders and impacts cancer patients daily.

With our current survey we aim to gain more information and insight into the role of cancer stigma in our communities.

- Cancer Alliance Stigma Survey -

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Minnie Kriek | Kidney Cancer

28 March 2007. I can honestly say it was an ordinary day, until I went to the loo. I remember feeling quite angry, because not only was I in the throes of menopause with hot flushes and all that, but my ovaries were doing a last ditch thing with a final period. Just what I...

I can honestly say it was an ordinary day, until I went to the loo. I remember feeling quite angry, because not only was I in the throes of menopause with hot flushes and all that, but my ovaries were doing a last ditch thing with a final period. Just what I needed! But then, wait a minute, this looks a little different. Maybe I needed to see a doctor. Arming myself with the smallest bottle I could find and a miniscule drop of the offending fluid, I set off to the doctor. But just in case, I said to myself, “Minnie if the car is full of petrol, you can go to the doctor” and the car is full to the brim; “Minnie if there are no cars on the road…” and there isn’t even a pram on the road; “If there are no people in the waiting room, if the receptionist is very nice, if the doctor can see me now…” and the doctor does see me because my evasion tactics are all swept aside. The doctor gently pokes me and gets on the phone to a specialist “There is a woman before me who is bleeding out, can you see her?”

Now I’m a little worried but I’ve got other stuff to do as well so I phone my husband and tell him to just deal with everything, and I’m off to the specialist. He sees me immediately and on a sonar finds Mount Everest nestling gently on top of my kidney. He says it might be cancer but to make sure I must go for a scan and he sommer follows me to the scanning people and tells them personally I must be scanned ASAP and now I’m scared. Before I leave his office, he comes around and gives me a hug, telling me that he knows I’m scared but not to worry because I’m in good hands and then Faithful reader I knew I was in the dwang!

Back home I tell my husband, “Ek is in die @#$, ek dink ek het kanker” and we leave for a dinner date with friends. We have to leave early because I have to drink copious quantities of contrast medicine, Yummy! Later that night I wake up in pain, phone the doctor after an hour’s walking about. The emergency doctor recommends anti-inflammatory medication, I don’t think this is a good idea and phone the specialist’s practise. The specialist’s partner books me into the hospital for pain management. True to form, once I’ve spoken to the doctor the pain goes away but now there’s a bed waiting for me in the hospital so I wake my husband and we set of to the hospital which happens to be just down the road.

The next day is a bit of a blur but Dr B tells me it is cancer and it has to come out. I phone my children and my brother and sister and send SMS’s to my friends, all very calm and doped up to my ears. I go for a scan and by this time I’m nauseous, terrified and just miserable.

At about 5 in the afternoon, the anaesthetist, a red headed guy, comes storming in demanding where I am because he has a great deal to do to get me ready and he grabs my bed and off I go down the passage with the nurse still trying to write down whether I’ve got false teeth or not. Once on the operating table he starts instructing everybody about what has to be done when I quietly but firmly say, “I’ve GOT to wee right now.” The theatre sister says, “Wel mevrou as jy moet dan moet jy’ and finds an old metal bedpan. I think the anaesthetist is about to take off through the ozone layer because of the delay and I make the most ladylike little tinkle, hanging on to the sister for support. And then I think I went to sleep.

When I wake up, I can’t breathe properly and start begging the person standing over me to please help me. “But I em helpink you! Stop shifferink, I kan’t kovver you!” And I knew I have fallen into the hands of the last Kamp commandant of Auschwitz. “Ve gheff vays of makingk you shtopp shifferingk, ja!!” My stay with her is blessedly short and for the rest of that confused evening I’m in the care of a professional and caring nurse who takes off the blanket and puts it on again, depending on whether I’m shivering or boiling.

My stay in intensive care was short and mercifully fairly painless, thanks to a button that I could press to self-medicate.

I recover quickly and fairly soon I feel like myself again. Unfortunately in the rush to get my kidney out, no-one notices that there is another tumour on my adrenal gland on the other kidney. So a year later, I’m in another hospital and my adrenal gland is removed. But now I’m ready for the Kamp Kommandant… anyone who is even maybe nasty will hear from me, I can promise you that! And everyone is so sweet, “How are you feeling? Do you want me to stay with you while you wait? Ag shame, are you cold?” So it seems that the Kommandant is the exception and not the rule, people who care for you in hospitals, as far as I experienced, are kind and caring.

It’s almost three years later and so far I’m OK. I wish I could say that after my brush with cancer I look at life differently or that I’m a better person, but honestly, I think I’m still as difficult as ever and sometimes life still needs to be changed to meet my high expectations of instant gratification! But I have learnt that it is OK to be vulnerable and that there is no greater favour that you can do for any person than to stop and listen to their story, because in the end we are all alone and a little afraid.

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